Where moments this week that gave you life? What where the moments that stole it like a thief? When were you on the side of life? When were you the thief of life for others? - the Irish Jesuit Community, Pray-as-you-go, May 11, 2014
Who is Philip? Jesus himself called him early on. It is Phillip who uses Jesus’ refrain “come and see,” (1:39) first as he called Nathanael. (1:46) I am sure Phillip’s heart fell when Jesus implied to him: “You give them — the 6000 in the wilderness — something to eat.” (6:5-9) When the Greek believers come, they first come to Phillip to say: “Sir, we like to see Jesus.” (12:20-22)
Who is Phillip? He is the one who in the upper room asks: "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” (14:8) Jesus’ reaction seems somehow disappointed. Did Phillip really just ask this? But then, it is one thing to do the things of the Father and another to be one with the Father. Here one earth, perhaps one ought to settle for less, at least in human terms. “Let us make humanity in our own image,” says God at creation. (Gen 1:26) Here, before the fall, there is now in creation an icon of creation’s author: Humanity. God only knowns what became of that icon after the fall.
In Jesus, that icon seems to have been restored, and if Jesus can and does do what he promised, in a humble way, in the ways of Jesus, in the way of Love, perhaps that icon is also cleaned up a bit in us.
Phillip’s worries, whether Jesus and the Father are one, will really not be solved until after the resurrection. For now, Jesus’ deeds must do for Phillip. (14:11) Then, after the ascension, Phillip will ask in Jesus name and all that is needed to give the world a look at God will be given. Jesus did Seven great signs, the disciples will do many more.
What are the signs and wonders, the greater things, that were and will be done? Somehow, they all gave life, they eliminated obstacles and roadblock to full life on earth. Dead received life — literally — as if to give a final hint what the great signs were all about. The blind see after a lifetime of misery. Hunger in the wilderness is ended and a community — an oasis of care and love is created — of 6000 is at peace. A small boat battered by the wind and rowed at large expense of effort is brought to shore by its Lord walking on the waters — the waters, a symbol of chaos and primeval forces — troubled by the storm. A child — surely an object of hope for his parents — is healed from the brink of death. A lame man — a man so poor he no longer has enough help to be lame — walks away. A wedding — in itself a pledge to be a source of life — is saved by God-given abundance instead of embarrassment and poverty.
In all these examples, Jesus is the force for the abundant life even for life eternal. Phillip, the one who has become somewhat of a broker between world and Jesus, is given a simple answer: There is no need to see the Father. Bring them to Jesus. Have them come and see the works of life and that will be enough. Like Thomas, a resurrection experience awaits them there.
The church is a place of humble riches. Humble because the greatest splendor of the church, her true treasure, is not hers per se and only shares himself at his own volition and in his own time. That does not leave her poor. The church has some true wonders at her fingertips: The works she does. They are not trivial. It might be true that one does not realize Jesus as the Son of God through them. But they do something valuable even when Jesus, who is ultimately hauled before the courts for doing them, does them: They attract those who would see into communion where the meeting with the risen Lord is eventually inevitable.
A way of speaking about conversion, a Catholic one I believe, goes something like this: “He is beautiful, he is good, he is right.” To translate that somehow: Something attracted us to the place where the Word is. We see life there. We see love there. We want to be there. As we draw close, we experience charity — in the biblical sense — there. We find a sense of safety and peace there. Life seems possible there. As we dwell there for a while, we learn what that life means and what it asks of us. Having seen and experienced the life offered to us, we gladly do what is asked of us. It would seem a contradiction of what we have seen and experienced not to.
The questions asked of Phillip are not trivial. Note the questions asked of Phillip, not by Phillip. He is asked: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (1:46) Answer: Come and see. He is asked — by Jesus: “Where are we to find food for these people?” But this question asked into the poverty of Phillip in the wilderness is answered by Jesus himself as if to say: “If ever you think you ain’t got it together enough to give these little ones of mine life and give it in abundance, remember this day and remember that you are wrong.” He is asked: “We want to see Jesus.” (12:22) he goes and brings their request to Jesus. Do not our heart long to bring others into the presence? He promises to do what we ask. Are we asking him concerning those who would draw close?