Tuesday, 3 May 2016

SS Philip and James, 3 May

Readings: 1 Corinthians 15:1-8; Psalm 19; John 14:6-14

It is not accidental that Philip asks this question of Jesus, 'show us the Father and we shall be satisfied'. There is a certain poignancy in Jesus' reply to him, 'have I been with you this long and you do not know me'. For Philip is one of the first disciples, according to John's gospel. Andrew is another and they are often mentioned together. They become apostles immediately, Andrew bringing his brother Simon to Jesus, Philip bringing Nathanael to him. As Jesus called them, they begin to call others. 'Come and see', Jesus says to Andrew and to another disciple (unnamed but possibly already Philip). 'Come and see', Philip says soon after to Nathanael.

This theme of seeing will return in chapter 12 of John's gospel where some Greeks, wanting to see Jesus, approach Philip. We are told, for a second time, that Philip is from Bethsaida in Galilee. His name is Greek, Galilee is more cosmopolitan than Judea, perhaps he was easier for them to approach. Philip appears again in chapter 6, challenged by Jesus to find food for the crowd; as elsewhere Andrew is soon mentioned also.

So on three of the four occasions in which Philip is mentioned the discussion is about seeing - seeing Jesus in the case of Nathanael and the Greeks, seeing the Father in the case of Philip's question in today's gospel. To see is to come to know and those who have been listening to John's gospel these past weeks know that believing is the kind of seeing and knowing to which Jesus invites his followers.

'If you had known me you would have known my Father also: henceforth you know him and have seen him.' This is Jesus' remark that prompts Philip's question. 'Have I been with you this long and still you do not know me? He who has seen me has seen the Father - how can you say 'show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?'

Seeing ... knowing ... believing that Jesus is the dwelling place of the Father: this is the theme, a mystery of communion to which we are given access by abiding in Jesus, by remaining in his word, in his love, in his commandments.

What does it teach us? One thing it reminds us of is this: that there are depths to be explored and fathomed in the mystery of Christ. Philip is an apostle who has been with him from the beginning. He has invited others to come and see and to abide. Yet still he asks a question that seems naive and uncomprehending. This reminds us that our own faith is not the terminus of a journey but the beginning. It is our acceptance of an invitation to come and see, to know more and more the love from which Jesus lives, to see in him the One from whom he draws life, the Father whom no one has seen except they gaze on the face of Jesus and see revealed there also the face of the Father.

You will find here another homily for today's feast.

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