Posted by: RAM | January 4, 2017

Thursday (January 5): “Come and see”

Mabuhay at Mabuting Balita
Month of the Holy Name
Memorial of Saint John Neumann, Bishop
Lectionary: 208

First Reading: 1 John 3:11-21
Psalms 100:1-5:  Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.
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 fig tree?
You will see greater things than 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.”
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/010517.cfm

Reflection:  How can we know with certainty that Jesus is truly who he claims to be – the Son of God and Savior of the world? Philip was eager to tell his friend Nathaniel (who is also known as Bartholomew in Matthew 10:3 and Luke 6:14) about his decision to be a disciple of Jesus. Philip tried to convince his friend that Jesus was the Messiah, whom Moses and the prophets had foretold would come. Nathanial was very skeptical because he didn’t think it was possible for the Messiah to come from Nazareth, a town in Galilee. Nathaniel not only disliked the town of Nazareth, he despised its residents as unworthy Jews. “How could anything good come from such a place?”

Nazareth was at the crossroads of the ancient world where people from different cultures and religions would pass through. Perhaps Nathaniel thought  its religious teachers were not orthodox enough in their understanding and interpretation of the law of Moses. Besides, how could the Messiah come from Galilee when the prophets said he would come from Bethlehem of Judaea? Aren’t we all a bit like Nathaniel? We are skeptical when someone tries to convince us of the truth until we can comprehend it for ourselves.

A skeptical but earnest search for God’s truth
So what kind of proof did Philip offer to Nathanael? Rather than argue with his friend, Philip took the wiser strategy of inviting Nathanael  to “come and see” for himself who this Jesus claimed to be. Clever arguments rarely win people to the Gospel – but an encounter with the person of Jesus Christ can change one’s life forever. When people are receptive to the word of Christ and when they see his love in action, the Lord Jesus himself, through the power of the Holy Spirit, touches their hearts and opens their minds to recognize that he truly is the Son of God who reveals the Father’s love and truth to us.

When Philip brought Nathanael to Jesus, Jesus did something which only God could do! He opened Nathanael’s heart and his innermost thoughts and desires to God’s revelation. Jesus called Nathanael a true “Israelite in whom there is no guile.” God had chosen Jacob, who was given the name Israel, over his twin brother Essau, because Jacob was a man of faith, without guile or cunning like Essau (Genesis 25:27).  Nathanael, like Jacob, hungered for God and believed in God’s promises. Nathanael knew the Scriptures. He had read the law and the prophets. And like Jacob he was waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promises to his people Israel. Nathanael was an earnest seeker of God. He not only sought to grow in understanding of God’s word, but he sought an intimate personal relationship with God as well. That is why he was willing to meet Jesus, to see if perhaps this miracle worker from Galilee might be the long-awaited Messiah and Savior.

God’s word brings blessing and refreshment for those who receive it
What is the significance of Jesus’ revelation of seeing Nathanael “under the fig tree”? For the people of Israel, the fig tree was a symbol of God’s peace and blessing (1 Kings 4:24b-25, Micah 4:4). It provided shade from the midday sun and a cool refreshing place to retreat, pray, and reflect on God’s word. Rabbis often gathered their disciples under the shade of the fig tree to teach them the wisdom and revelation of God’s word in the Scriptures. The rabbis had an expression for comparing the fig tree to being nourished with God’s word in Scripture, “He who tends the fig tree will eat its fruit.”

Jesus offers the greatest gift possible – peace and friendship with God
It is very likely that Nathanael had been thinking about God’s word  while sitting  “under his fig tree” and reflecting on God’s promise to send a Messiah King who would free his people from sin and oppression and usher in God’s kingdom of righteousness and peace for the whole world. Perhaps Nathanael dozed off for a midday nap and dreamt of God’s kingdom like Jacob had dreamt when God gave him a vision of a great ladder which united earth with heaven (see Genesis 28:12-17). Through the gift of revelation Nathanael recognized that Jesus was truly the Messiah, the everlasting “Son of God and King of Israel” (John 1:49).  The Lord Jesus offered Nathanael the greatest gift of all – the gift of friendship with God and the offer of free access to God’s throne in heaven.

Jesus promises that we will dwell with the living God
What does Jesus mean when he says “you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man”? One of the most remarkable revelations recorded in the Bible is the dream of Jacob (Genesis 28:12-17). God had opened a door for Jacob that brought him and his people into a new relationship with the living God. In Jacob’s dream God revealed his angelic host and showed him the very throne of heaven and promised Jacob that he and his descendants would dwell with the living God.

Jesus, the Son of God, unites earth and heaven in himself 
Jesus’ response to Nathanael’s new faith in accepting Jesus as the Messiah is the promise that Jesus himself will open the way for free access to the very throne of God in heaven. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Jacob and his descendants – he is the way to the Father in heaven and the true “ladder (or stairway) which unites earth with heaven.” In Jesus’ incarnation, the divine Son of God taking on human flesh for our sake, we see the union of heaven and earth – God making his dwelling with us and bringing us into the heavenly reality of his kingdom through his Son, Jesus Christ.

Jesus gives us free access to God’s presence
Jesus’ death on the cross, where he defeated sin and won new life for us through his resurrection, opens the way for each of us to come into a new relationship with God as his adopted sons and daughters. The Lord Jesus opens the way for each one of us to “ascend to heaven” and to bring “heaven to earth” in the daily circumstances of our lives. God’s kingdom is present in those who seek him and who strive to do his will. Through the gift of faith God opens a door for each one of us to the heavenly reality of his kingdom. Do you see with the “eyes of faith” what the Lord Jesus has done for us?

“Heavenly Father, through your Son Jesus Christ, you have opened the way to heaven for each one of us. As you personally revealed yourself to your beloved patriarchs and apostles, so reveal yourself to me that I may recognize your presence with me and know the power of your kingdom at work in my life. May I always find joy and peace in your presence and never lose sight of your everlasting kingdom.” http://dailyscripture.servantsoftheword.org/readings/2017/jan5.htm

Saint of the Day: St. John Neumann (1811-1860)
This American saint was born in Bohemia in 1811. He was looking forward to being ordained in 1835 when the bishop decided there would be no more ordinations. It is difficult for us to imagine now, but Bohemia was overstocked with priests. John wrote to bishops all over Europe but the story was the same everywhere no one wanted any more priests. John was sure he was called to be a priest but all the doors to follow that vocation seemed to close in his face.

But John didn’t give up. He had learned English by working in a factory with English-speaking workers so he wrote to the bishops in America. Finally, the bishop in New York agreed to ordain him. In order to follow God’s call to the priesthood John would have to leave his home forever and travel across the ocean to a new and rugged land.

In New York, John was one of 36 priests for 200,000 Catholics. John’s parish in western New York stretched from Lake Ontario to Pennsylvania. His church had no steeple or floor but that didn’t matter because John spent most of his time traveling from village to village, climbing mountains to visit the sick, staying in garrets and taverns to teach, and celebrating the Mass at kitchen tables.

Because of the work and the isolation of his parish, John longed for community and so joined the Redemptorists, a congregation of priests and brothers dedicated to helping the poor and most abandoned.

John was appointed bishop of Philadelphia in 1852. As bishop, he was the first to organize a diocesan Catholic school system. A founder of Catholic education in this country, he increased the number of Catholic schools in his diocese from two to 100.

John never lost his love and concern for the people — something that may have bothered the elite of Philadelphia. On one visit to a rural parish, the parish priest picked him up in a manure wagon. Seated on a plank stretched over the wagon’s contents, John joked, “Have you ever seen such an entourage for a bishop!”

The ability to learn languages that had brought him to America led him to learn Spanish, French, Italian, and Dutch so he could hear confessions in at least six languages. When Irish immigration started, he learned Gaelic so well that one Irish woman remarked, “Isn’t it grand that we have an Irish bishop!”

Once on a visit to Germany, he came back to the house he was staying in soaked by rain. When his host suggested he change his shoes, John remarked, “The only way I could change my shoes is by putting the left one on the right foot and the right one on the left foot. This is the only pair I own.”

John died on January 5, 1860 at the age of 48.  http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=70

More Saints of the Day:
St. Apollinaris Syncletica
St. Cera
St. Charles of Sezze
St. Convoyon
St. Emiliana
St. Gaudentius
St. Genoveva Torres Morales
St. Gerlac
Bl. Jacques Ledoyen
St. John Nepomucene Neumann
St. John Neumann
St. Lomer
Bl. Marcelina Darowska
Martyrs of Egypt
St. Paula
St. Roger
St. Syncletica
St. Syncletica of Alexandria
St. Talida

Let me be the change I want to be. Even if I am not the light, I can be the spark.  Follow Tweets by @TheOneKinEnt  @Pontifex @CardinalChito Maynila, Pilipinas

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