05Jan Thursday, January 5th, 2012

1 John 3:11-21: Love is the truly life-giving quality. Whoever does not love remains in death.

John 1:43-51: With Philip’s help, Nathaniel finds Jesus, and his vocation is opened up to him.

Nathaniel’s special Gift

The author of the Fourth Gospel seems to have been particularly interested in Nathaniel, for some reason, as he was in Nicodemus, who is likewise not named in the synoptics. Nathaniel, the story of whose vocation winds up this first chapter of St. John, also appears in the Gospel’s final scene, by the shore of Lake Tiberias: ” Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples ” (Jn 21:2).

Like Thomas the Twin (Didymus) Nathanael of Cana seems to have a skeptical streak, unwilling to take others’ word for things. His opinion of Nazareth, the next village to his own, is less than complimentary. But despite this, he still allows his friend Philip to introduce him to Jesus of Nazareth, and this introduction changed the future course of Nathanael’s life. Jesus saw in him a special gift of candour, of honesty and openness, and spoke to him about some significant episode “under the fig tree” that had profound resonance and prompted Nathanael the Cana-ite to put his total trust in the man from Nazareth, the prophet who could open up to Israel its full spiritual potential. Not only Nathanael but all those others who answered the call to encounter Jesus on a daily basis, would see new spiritual horizons – here expressed as “the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” They, and all Jesus’ followers, would become the new Israel, the heirs of the great patriarch Jacob who first experienced the “Jacob’s Ladder” effect while dreaming about God’s dwelling, on the rocky ledge at Bethel (Gen. 28:12).

From then on it would be Nathaniel’s special Gift, which he shared with many others, to recognize in Jesus the true ladder that gives us access to intimacy with God. Many centuries later the English poet Francis Thompson gave expression to that same sense of tingling wonderment in his poem “O world invisible”

But when so sad thou canst not sadder
Cry – and upon thy so sore loss
Shall shine the traffic of Jacob’s ladder
Pitched between Heaven and Charing Cross.

First Reading: 1 John 3:11-21

Beloved: This is the message you have heard from the beginning: we should love one another, unlike Cain who belonged to the Evil One and slaughtered his brother. Why did he slaughter him? Because his own works were evil, and those of his brother righteous. Do not be amazed, then, brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers.

Whoever does not love remains in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him. The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.

Now this is how we shall know that we belong to the truth and reassure our hearts before him in whatever our hearts condemn, for God is greater than our hearts and knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence in God.

Gospel: John 1:43-51

Jesus decided to go to Galilee, and he found Philip. And Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the town of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”

Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

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