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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."
Great Truths About Life That Little Children Have Learned…
“No matter how hard you try you cannot baptize a cat.”
“You can’t trust dogs to watch your food for you.”
“You can’t hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk.”
“Never wear polka-dot underwear under white shorts… no matter how cute the underwear is.”
From a very young age we begin making logical conclusions. Some pertain to matters such as the baptism of cats, while others tend to be a bit more serious... don’t jump off into the deep end without anyone watching, look both ways before you cross the street, don’t talk to strangers and so on. It all really comes back to that wonderful little classic by Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Fulghum says that things such as flushing the toilet and taking naps are universal truths that when applied to not only children, but to adults and life in general, the world would be a much better place. For example, he says, “Think what a better world it would be if all - the whole world - had cookies and milk about three o'clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.”… I particularly like what he has to say about us going out into the world, “no matter how old you are - when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.”..
In our Gospel reading today we have Philip who also learns a great truth… this Jesus is the Messiah and so he goes to his friend Nathanael and declares, "We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from
."… Nathanael’s response, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth ?"… For us that is a bit of an odd answer, but it would be a bit like saying, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth ?”… At the time, located in Nazareth was a very strong Roman Army garrison and so the Jews looked down on Nazareth thinking that not only were the Romans there, but that the people of Nazareth probably collaborated with them; therefore giving those folks a poor image in the eyes of others. However, instead of being put off, Philip said to Nathanael, “Come and see.”.. come and check it out for yourself and Nathanael does. North Dakota
When Jesus saw Nathanael coming he said, "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." Again another comment that we would not necessarily know the meaning to, but to be “under the fig tree” is to be in a place of peace which allows for study and meditation.. it is a place where one rests and seeks after answers. Jesus is saying to Nathanael, “I saw you while you were searching for meaning.” … Jesus is saying to Nathanael, “I know your deepest desire.. I know what keeps you up at night.. your dreams.. your hurts.. you hopes.. your fears.. I know your heart.” … Nathanael’s response, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!"… “You know me for who I am.. for what I am… You are God.. you are my King… and I will follow you.”
Children know such universal truths as “You can’t hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk,” but in the heart of each of us we know an even greater truth and it is the one that Nathanael proclaimed, and that is Jesus is the Son of God.. He is our King… He is our Messiah… I will go to my grave believing that even the greatest atheist knows this to be true… And because this is who Jesus is.. then he knows us fully.
Philip had to go in search of Nathanael.. he had to seek him out, but Jesus knew him while he was still under the fig tree.. he knew him before they had met for the first time… and that is the scary bit if you think about it for too long… as the Psalmist declares…
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
Whether you are under the fig tree or in the darkest abyss.. the Lord knows where you are. He doesn’t have to go in search of you or send folks out to find you. He doesn’t need GPS or Google Maps.. He knows. As I said, that can be the scary bit… for we think that God knows where we are.. and the only reason he wants to know is so that when we mess up he can pull out the world’s largest Louisville Slugger and give us a whack up side the head… But that is not the case… God knows where we are, so that at anytime and in any place or situation we can turn to Him.. and He will be there…
Think of it.. Peter... walking on the water… But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him… The Lord knows our whereabouts not so that He can rule over us with an iron fist, but so that He might be there to save us – immediately – when we call on Him.
What is so interesting is that we know the answer to the Psalmist question, “Where can I flee from your presence?” – Nowhere… Yet we still think that are places where we can hide from God… those dark corners of our heart… the back alleys of our lives where sin abounds.. we say, “surely the darkness will hide me.”.. but it is not so. And worse than thinking there are places we can hide from God is thinking that there are places that God will not come, in order to save us… that He can’t enter into.. or won’t enter into… We think that the pit we’ve dug for ourselves and then gone and jumped into is so deep and fatal that God has given up on us, but Jesus made a promise, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.”.. I am with you always, no matter how deep and nasty the pit… and all you have to do is look to Him and ask to be saved.. and immediately he will be there… That doesn’t mean that it won’t be a long hard climb out.. it doesn’t mean that you won’t have to participate in that rising.. or that it won’t cost you.. but you can have confidence in knowing that He is there.
Some might say, “Fr. John, do you know how many times I’ve held out my hand to Jesus and cried out to him ‘Save me’, only to find myself sinking further into the turmoil?”… it is at such times that we truly understand Paul’s position well when he says, “I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.”.. three times I cried to him to save me… but in these cases the response the Lord gives to us is the same he gave to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”… That seems like a hard answer – especially when you are sinking into the abyss – but it is God’s assurance that even though it may be His will for you to remain in such a difficult place, He will be with you.. and He will use you for His greater glory. As Blessed Placid Riccardi states, “Reason should dominate pain, for our Redeemer has sanctified pain and by so doing has given us Christians a right way of facing it. For us, pain does not come to hurt and destroy us, but to raise us to new heights.”
There are many great truths that we discover during our lives, but there is none greater than the one that Nathanael so clearly announces, "Rabbi – Jesus – you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" This Jesus is not a god who rides the clouds nor is he a king locked away in a castle of stone… He is the One True God that is always near His people, loving them as His children.
Let us pray… God, our Father, You have promised to remain forever with those who do what is just and right. Help us to live in Your presence. The loving plan of Your Wisdom was made known when Jesus, your Son, became man like us. We want to obey His commandment of love and bring Your peace and joy to others. Keep before us the wisdom and love You have made known in Your Son. Help us to be like Him in word and deed. Amen.