05 January. Thursday before Epiphany 2017
Saint Charles of Mount Argus, priest
1st Reading: 1 John 3:11-21
Basic Christian vocation, to love one another
For this is the message you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We must not be like Cain who was from the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not be astonished, brothers and sisters, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another. Whoever does not love abides in death. All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them. We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us – and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who as the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?
Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.
Gospel: John 1:43-51
Jesus promises Nathanael that he will see the heavens opened
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
A man in whom there is no deceit
It’s hard not to like the person of Nathanael as portrayed by the evangelist in today’s gospel. He clearly wasn’t the kind of man who got carried away by other people’s enthusiasms. When Philip breathlessly tells him, “We have found the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth,” Nathanael’s reply was, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth.” To Philip’s credit, he persisted with Nathanael, and he must have broken through Nathanael’s prejudice because at the beginning of today’s gospel we find Nathanael coming towards Jesus. Jesus addresses him as a man incapable of deceit, someone in whom there is no guile. What you see is what you get, as we might say today. As a result of his meeting with Jesus the sceptic comes to confess Jesus as “the Son of God; the King of Israel.” Jesus makes Nathanael a wonderful promise, “You will see;” Angels were understood as mediators, connecting heaven and earth. Jesus promises Nathanael that he will come to appreciate Jesus as the meeting point of heaven and earth. Nathanael travelled a journey from scepticism to great faith, with the promise of greater things to come. We are all on a journey of faith; we can all hope to see those greater things that Jesus promises Nathanael. As Paul says, “now we see as in a mirror dimly, then we shall see face to face.”