In these last days before we enter into the most solemn week of the liturgical year, Jesus makes us three conditional promises: “If you remain in my word – (a) you will truly be my disciples; (b) you will know the truth; and (c) the truth will set you free.” When we read this passage in the gospel of John, we may often do so in such a way as to overlook the distinct nature of each promise, but all three are important for us as we are invited to walk the journey to Jerusalem. A word is the smallest meaningful unit of speech that can stand by itself. Thus, to “remain in my word” is the invitation to fold ourselves into the single reality of Jesus’s life, a manifestation of the eternal word reverberating throughout history and time which stands by itself as the fullness of revelation. To become part of that word demands courage as manifested by the three young men in the court of King Nebuchadnezzar, for the reaction to God’s word is never guaranteed. However, Jesus assures us that when we do choose to live in the word we will be living signs of his presence in the world, his disciples, echoing the sound of God’s voice in every action. We will know the truth, a single reality fixed in God’s universe and ultimately that truth will set us free even despite difficulties and resistance.
Our lives as ministers of charity must always be rooted in this eternal word so that we may indeed be disciples first and foremost. Only when our ministry flows from this discipleship can we help others to be led to the truth which will set them free.