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You are One Who Sees God

Homily on Jn 1.43-51 (Can anything good come from Nazareth?)


 

Glory to Jesus Christ.


We just heard the story of Nathanael. Nathanael

comes to Jesus by Philip. Philip announces: “We have found the one of

whom Moses in the Law and the prophets write”, we have found the one

of whom the whole Old Testament writes. Do you wish to meet Jesus?

Study psalms, study passages of the Old Testament, All Scripture is

written to reveal Jesus if you do not remain at a literal reading, but

open your heart and mind to the spiritual aim for which all Scripture

is written. It’s universal aim is to give you to meet Jesus. No other

book, no movie can compare with passages from the Bible: the other

media do not give directly Jesus. So… Philip says: “He is Jesus of

Nazareth”, Jesus is from a little village in Galilee of which no

Scripture speaks. Whereas Nathanael is from Cana in Galilee. Nathanael

knows how all Galileans are put down by the majority of Jews. But

Nathanael’s Cana in Galilee is a priestly town on a hill, on top of

which I lived as a monk for 4 or 5 years. From that top there is a

unique view of Mount Hermon, Mount Tabor, the Sea of Galilee and the

Mediterranean Sea… the village of Nazareth, for its part, is tucked

away, hidden on the next hill south.


Nathanael acts as we do:

if we are humiliated, we are so quick to pick on someone nearby, maybe

likewise humiliated, whom we can humiliate in turn: “Can something

good come out of Nazareth?” Philip isn’t discouraged with Nathanael’s

crudeness. Philip repeats the very words Jesus spoke earlier to the

first two disciples, through whom Philip himself was brought to Jesus:

“Come and see”. The chain must continue today. We, Christians, must

say to all brothers and sisters: “Come and see”. Nathanael arrives in

the presence of Jesus, and Jesus looking at him says: “You are a true

Israelite”. According to popular etymology: “You are of Israel”, means

you are ‘Yéré El’, ‘you are one who sees El’, you are one who sees

God. Jesus, the most humiliated among us, is luckily not like us. At

first glance, He does not put down his brother, quite the contrary, He

brings out divine nobility, He brings out our being in the image and

likeness of God, convincingly. That is what He is constantly repeating

to us from the Cross, that is what He is constantly repeating to us

from each icon: “You are Yéré El, you are one who sees God”. “How do

you know me?” responds Nathanael. “I saw you under the fig tree, I saw

you in that intimate, recent, event only known to you, I saw you

meditating under the fig tree, and suddenly catching a glimpse of

spiritual meaning of Holy Scripture”. How can we convey enough the

power of genuine meditation of Scripture passages, joined with letting

Jesus look at us? Today, Jesus is looking at us through the icons.

Enriched by words of Holy Scripture, learn to gaze at an icon, learn

something of its spiritual meaning, learn this manifestation of heaven

on earth, see Jesus gaze at you and hear Jesus affirm: “you are Yéré

El”, you have begun to see God. So it is with Nathanael: Nathanael

cannot silence his enthusiasm: “You, Jesus, are the one of whom King

David heard God say, through Nathan the prophet, concerning one of his

descendants: “I shall be a father to him and he shall be a son to me”,

“You, Jesus, are the one of whom the little prophet Zephaniah spoke

saying: “O Israel, God is king among you, He will renew you by his

love.”, and so on… As Nathanael did, we too are to learn to dialogue

with Jesus. Let Jesus speak through an icon. We are to learn to live

intimate dialogue, back and forth, and join Nathanael’s enthusiasm.


In such enthusiasm Jesus sees faith, faith which brings about new things,

better things, better than the dream of Jacob who saw a ladder joining

heaven and earth and on which the angels ascended and descended. Jesus

affirms: “You will see better than Jacob, you will see me who am

speaking to you, today through the icon, you will see the Son of Man

of whom, the prophet Daniel says, “all peoples, nations and languages

will serve you and your kingdom will never end”. This is what our Lent

is all about, this is what today’s memorial of promotion of icons is

all about: all Christians are invited to live the dialogue of

Nathanael and Jesus. As crude as I may be at times, I am invited to

enter into Nathanael’s enthusiasm in which Jesus sees faith, an

enthusiasm conveyed through icons, through beautiful liturgies,

through love for one another beyond any chilling remarks, enthusiasm

to discover Holy Scripture more and more, enthusiasm to thank God for

the exquisite beauties of Mother Nature, enthusiasm for becoming

capable of taking on the humblest chore, of seeing Jesus in my least

attractive neighbor… because I let Jesus see me, speak to me, and I

speak back my enthusiasm to Him and I receive Jesus’ affirmation that

the divine gift of faith is at work. Let the icons remind us of the

enthusiasm of so many witnesses who share to us their intimate

dialogue with Christ, starting with the Holy Mother of God, the Virgin

Mary, all the courageous witnesses you see on the walls of our temple.

Today, we celebrate the first Sunday of the Great Lenten Fast, the

great mystery of Christ in whom is the fullness of the divinity and the

fullness of humanity. Confession of this great mystery constitutes the

fundamental meaning of the word ‘orthodoxy’. Orthodox does not mean

“opposed to Catholics”, orthodox means confessor of the full mystery

of Christ God and man. This first Sunday of the Great Lenten Fast is

called Sunday of Orthodoxy and Sunday of the triumph of icons. Let us

celebrate with enthusiasm saying:


Glory to Jesus Christ.


 

Homily given 2.26.2023 First Sunday of Lent, Orthodoxy Sunday

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