Do not let your hearts be troubled: I am the way, the truth, and the life
A Biblical Reflection given by The Most Reverend Bernard Ntahoturi Archbishop of Burundi The Anglican Church of Burundi
Greetings from the Province of the Anglican Church of Burundi.
In any great venture there comes a time when the will to press ahead fails in the face of the enormity of what must be done. Leadership becomes frightened, sometimes paralysed, when confronted by risks that must be taken if momentum is to be maintained. This precisely describes what was happening to the disciples of Jesus as they faced the fact that Jesus was going to leave them. Their hearts were troubled but he called them to trust in God and to trust in him because He was going to the Father.
Since he has gone to the Father, we should not be troubled. He calls all those who trust in him to be firm even though the journey to the Father is not an easy one. It requires faith.
We should not let our hearts be troubled, because in our Father’s house there is a room for everyone who trusts and obeys.
During the situations when doubts prevail, when there is confusion and no focus or spirit of discernment, when there is no common vision for walking together towards the Father, the only hope left to the believers and disciples is to trust and obey. We trust and obey because we rely on the Father, the owner of the mansion, and on the love of Jesus, the one who is preparing the rooms. Jesus reassures his disciples that they do not need to worry, because he is the Way, the Truth and The Life. It is through him that we come to the Father. The “I am” statements are an assertion of his divinity, his oneness with the Father.
Jesus emphasises clearly that we can only reach the Father by believing in him. According to Jesus, “not all roads lead to Rome”, not all roads lead to Canterbury or Lambeth. Not all roads lead to the possession of eternal life. Jesus is the God-appointed way. Without Jesus we may have life, but it is not eternal life, life in the presence of the Father.
We have had troubled hearts in Burundi. We are coming out of 45 years of mistrust and 15 years of ethnic war. Refugees and internally displaced people have been part of our experience since 1965. We have, and still are, experiencing political instability, absolute poverty, and the deterioration of the environment. Every day a mother or a child dies at child birth because there are no health services in the vicinity. In spite of our government’s policy to support education for all, many children are not able to attend primary education because there are not enough classrooms. At this point we would like to thank Lambeth Palace in partnership with CMS Ireland who has contributed immensely to the provision and improvement of classrooms in our Church schools.
In the midst of all this trouble, the church has heard the comforting voice, “Do not let your hearts be troubled…”.We have seen signs of God’s intervention through your prayers and your visits, including that of His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury. Yes, the church has been troubled but never defeated. We are coming to understand the reality of the “I am”; the necessity of abiding in Jesus and he abiding in us. We are also learning to cherish relationships with our partners, believing that as we walk and serve together, we mutually encourage one another and give glory to the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Sprit.
Our experience has led us to recognise that the most fundamental challenge confronting the Church today is how to relate the Gospel message to an ever-changing society without blowing away the sense of continuity with the past that provides us with the roots of our identity. The Lord is most directly present and active whenever the Gospel is interacting with the most critical issues of the day and when the Church through its prophetic ministry is at the cutting edge of contemporary life and culture. It is then that we realise as never before that any constructive work for God is impossible without the call and power of the Holy Spirit.
This requires faith. A faith that is revived and reawakened by the Holy Spirit so that we are spiritually transformed in order that we make an impact on a society that is adrift and in danger, unable to find answers to the huge moral issues of life that fundamentally challenge who we are and what we believe. Such reawakened faith can give us the capacity to bring people together even across traditional boundaries and divisions.
This is always about what God can do through us. Only by accepting our inner brokenness, poverty, and powerlessness can we begin to discover the mystery of God’s all-powerful love and compassion. The “I am” becoming a reality. Faith will keep the fire, the passion, the strength, the perseverance and the hope alive, so that we continue to walk together towards the Father, whose Son is still with us through the power of the Holy Spirit as the Way, the Truth and the Life. Amen.