1.5.18 Fri. before Epiphany – (II)
1st Letter of St. John. 3: 11 – 21
Gospel John 1: 43 – 51
Jesus decided to go to Galilee, and he found Philip. And Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the town of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth. ”But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Jesus answered and said to him, “do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the gig tree? You will see greater things that this.” And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
The Gospel of the Lord.
Homily: Fr. Mike Murphy Come and See
“Can anything good come from Nazareth”? (John 1:46) This is a cynical remark by Nathanael. If we look at it carefully, it possibly betrays an attitude of rigidity in a believer. Nathanael seemed to have preconceived ideas of what the Messiah should be like and appears to be closed to any expression of faith that was outside his frame of reference. He was a pious man, and he was an honest man. †Jesus called him: “A true child of Israel.” (Jn.1:47) †Jesus said of him: “There is no duplicity in him” (ibid); describing him as a person who says what is on his mind, a very honest person. †Jesus said to him: “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree”. (John 1:48) This is in reference to the practice of rabbis at the time, who would gather their disciples under a fig tree to teach them. A fig tree because it would have shade and would protect the group from the heat of the day. We can assume that Nathanael was a student of the Torah, gathered with rabbis and studied the prophecies about the Messiah. He likely embraced the popular notion of the time, that the Messiah would be a king like David and rid their country of the Roman occupying army. His statement: “Could anything good come from Nazareth” (Jn.1:46) was a reflection of this belief that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem, not Nazareth. Just as the advisors of King Herod told him, when he asked where the Messiah would be from. Then Herod sent his soldiers to kill the innocent children in Bethlehem.
Nathanael was skeptical about Philip’s excitement regarding the one “Moses had spoken about”. There was skepticism in Nathanael, a closed attitude to any kind of new belief, a new explanation. Nathanael was like many Christians who are locked into their image of Christ and His teaching. They are not open to any expression of faith outside a clearly defined list of rules. An example are some who have responded negatively to Pope Francis’ call to his Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia to accept the possibility of allowing divorced and civilly remarried people to receive communion. A person might say: “How could †Jesus possibly allow a divorced or civilly remarried person to receive Communion”? The Church has long had a forum for discernment to explore that issue with a person who is civilly remarried. Guided by the pastor, the person strives to inform their conscience and honestly listen to what God is asking of them. We call this the internal-forum solution. Pope Francis made it clear; we do not close doors on people who believe differently than us. Rather, we welcome them into a dialogue so that we can show them the beauty of our teaching; the truth of the Gospel. But if we are shutting doors we just block off any possibility of evangelization; of proclaiming the Good News.
St. John Neumann whose memory we celebrate today, served the immigrant community in the United States amidst their various ways of believing. He welcomed them all. He started Catholic Schools in Philadelphia to educate children in the truth about our faith. He didn’t shut doors or try to twist arms. He said what †Jesus said: “Come and see.” Just come and listen to what we have to say. That’s what the Holy Father is calling us to do. But, imagine if Nathanael had not followed Philip’s invitation to ‘come and see’. When he met †Jesus, the love he experienced with the person of †Jesus changed everything for Nathanael, and Nathanael became one of the twelve apostolic pillars of Christianity.
We if do not have the love of God in our heart we will never be disciples of †Jesus. We will never be disciples of †Jesus; we will never welcome those who are different; we will never invite people to “come and see’ if we do not have the love of God in heart. According to the first Letter of John, love is: “The message you heard from the beginning”? (1 Jn.3:11) The way we know we “have passed from death to life” (1 Jn.3:14), the way we know “we are committed to the truth (1 Jn.3:19), the way for us to be alive in Christ and not “among the living dead” (1 Jn.3:14).
So don’t be afraid to seek †Jesus in places you do not expect. St. Teresa of Calcutta found †Jesus daily in the poor and the dying; †Jesus in His most distressing disguise. †Jesus is in the homeless person holding a sign – asking for food. †Jesus is in the person that walked away from the Church because they don’t want anything to do institutional religion. †Jesus is with that person living in the way that is foreign to our morals and social teaching. We find †Jesus in all of these places if, like Nathaniel, we are not afraid to ‘come and see.’
In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.