1 John 3:11-21; Psalms 100:1-2, 3, 4, 5; John 1:43-51
During this second week of Christmas, having just celebrated Jesus’ birth - the incarnation of the Most Holy One - it seems a bit odd to be reflecting on the adult Jesus and how he chose his first disciples. Yet as I prayed with today’s readings, the Gospel passage seemed to me to be an allegory of our personal Christmas – remembering how God is born – and borne – by each of us as we open our hearts, our minds, our bodies to the mystery of God’s love.
The first letter of John recounts the call of the first disciples: Andrew, Peter, Philip. Today we hear Philip introducing Nathanael to Jesus in a brief statement, saying he is the one they have been awaiting. Nathanael is skeptical…”Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Rather than trying to convince Nathanael, Philip says, “Come and see.” And in the next brief exchange with Jesus, Nathanael comes to believe that he is the Son of God, the Messiah. It is not words that convince; it is an encounter with Jesus. Something within Nathanael is touched – and now he “knows;” not an intellectual, rational acceptance of the Jesus’ identity, but an experience of him!
How similar to our own faith journeys. An invitation. Thoughtfulness. Skepticism. Decision. Risk. And then the Encounter; an experience of the Living God in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Who were the people that introduced you to Jesus? How were you skeptical? What proof did you want? When was the grace of openness accepted, or was it a “leap of faith”? What was your encounter with the Living God?
Today I remember those people who introduced me to Jesus, who blessed me with courage to see beyond my doubts and fears and suspicions. I am grateful for the graces received – for openness of mind and heart and a willingness to be surprised – again, and again, and again. Today I pray in gratitude that daily I am called to an Encounter with the Living God – in events, in personal relationships, in strangers, in my hopes and dreams, in my wholeness and my brokenness, in my own soul.
Karl Rahner, Jesuit and theologian, is quoted as saying “The devout Christian of the future will either be a mystic, that is, one who has experienced something, or he (she) will cease to be anything at all.” Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ, also a theologian, further states “The Christian will be one who has experienced something of the beauty and the love of the living God, one who has felt the attraction so that it becomes personal knowledge, or faith will be a dead fish.” (Abounding in Kindness, 2015)
Jesus saw Nathanael under the fig tree – a symbol of peace and prosperity in the Old Testament. How fitting as we begin this New Year with hope. In the words of today’s first reading, “Let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth,” that others may encounter the Living God through us.
By Diane Jorgensen