Of all the movies I've seen, Dead Poets Society, starring Robin Williams, is a favorite. In this film, Robin Williams is a teacher of English Lit at an exclusive prep school. He is a creative instructor, full of enthusiasm for life and learning outside the box. In one classroom scene, he jumps up on his desk to demonstrate to his students the importance of having a better vantage point; above his seated students he sees things farther and more clearly. Standing up there staring forward and arms spread wide, he invites his students to do the same. It's a powerful moment that sends a message to look beyond ourselves and our everyday lives.
Likewise, the Jesuit theologian Teilhard de Chardin, wrote: (quote) "Let me beg you to rise for a moment above the dust and smoke obscuring the horizon and gaze with me at the course of the world." Both the English Lit teacher and the Jesuit theologian invite us to embrace a new vision of life.
That's precisely what Jesus is doing in today's Gospel. He offers us a new vision, a new way of living based upon our baptism and our faith. But the vision Jesus offers is neither familiar nor comfortable to people addicted to competition, selfishness, and material things. His disciples are confused. They know Jesus is about to leave them, but they don't know where he is going and they don't know the way to get there! They seem to want a road-map. But Jesus doesn't give them a road map. Instead, he declares "I am the Way!" We need only to follow his lead, his life, his teaching to know God. Jesus is the human expression of God. Yet having Jesus as the Way is not always easy or appealing. His Way is far outside the cultural box in which we live. He values cooperation over competition, service over selfishness, sharing over hoarding : and most importantly, loving over simply obeying the rules. His Way also recognizes pain, suffering and death as necessary human experiences, for without them there can be no resurrection, no life in abundance.
It is crucially important that we understand this. We don't need to spend time hammering out a Creed or disputing fine points of theology. That is not the Way! What we need to do is choose the compassionate Man of peace as the Way. When we do this, we are already well on the Way! The truth of the Gospel is the heaven we seek, and our life in Jesus is the path that leads us directly to the heart of God.
A remarkable woman saint once declared: "All the way to heaven is heaven, because Jesus is the Way." I've never heard it put better!