Sunday, 18 May 2014

5th Sunday of Easter, Year A, Shaftesbury

Jn 14:1-12
I want to say a few words about two of our inner yearnings, to ‘go’ and to ‘see’, and about how only Jesus can satisfy these.
Of course, not everybody in life seems to be ‘yearning’. Many people seem to have given up the quest. But even so, there remains an inner restlessness that flows from the fact that we humans are made for something MORE than the mundane realities we find in this world.
And so we repeatedly yearn to 'go' someplace, so like Thomas we ask the ‘way’ (as in today’s Gospel text).
And we yearn to 'see' more, so we ask to be shown, like Philip.

I was reading from Pope Benedict’s book, Jesus of Nazareth, Vol 1, Introduction (he’s the retired pope now, but his book is still worth reading!), and he notes the link between ‘seeing’ and ‘going’ -because when I first read the comment of Thomas and the comment of Philip in today’s Gospel they seemed unrelated –but they’re not.

Pope Benedict starts his comments about Jesus by looking at Moses in the Old Testament. Moses, in the book of Deuteronomy, prophesied that One would come after him -the prophecy of the messiah: “The Lord will raise up for you a prophet like me”(Deut 18:15). This messianic prophecy was repeated and amplified down the centuries, a prophecy of One would HAVE even more fully, and GIVE even more fully, what Moses had had and what Moses had given the people.

What was it that Moses had had?
Friendship with God. This is what we all yearn for, even if we don't realise quite what we are seeking.
We seek the companionship of the One who will satisfy.
The Bible tells us that Moses talked with God, “as a friend speaks with a friend”(Ex 33:11). Wow!
And because Moses knew and ‘saw’ God in this sense He knew the destiny, the goal, the path to lead the People of God towards: the Exodus, the Promised Land etc.
Because he ‘saw’ he therefore knew the path to ‘go’ –so the questions of Thomas and Philip are linked.

But, even the mighty Moses, who led the Children of Israel out of Egypt, who parted the Red Sea, even he did not see God FULLY:
He spoke to God amidst the pillar of cloud, in the Tent of Meeting (Ex 33:10);
But he did not see the “glory” of God’s “face”(Ex 33:23)
–when he asked, he was allow to see the glory of God from behind as the Lord passed, but to see God’s “face” would have been more than he could have endured (Ex 33:20).
Yet, his capacity to the lead the people, his capacity to know where they should ‘go’, stemmed from his familiarity with God, from the extent to which he ‘saw’ the Lord in the cloud.

What of Jesus?
He is the One who has an utterly more profound communion with God,
because the godhead is not something apart from Him,
but is something He is a 'part' of: He is Himself God.
He is Himself the One eternal Son of the Father.
“No one has ever seen God; it is the only Son, who is nearest the Father’s heart, who has made Him known”(Jn 1:18)

To return to today’s gospel text:
“how can we know the way?”, asked Thomas
“let us see the Father”, said Philip
Jesus is the way. Jesus is the face of the Father.
To have ‘seen’ Him is to know the ‘way’ to go. He is the One we are all ‘yearning’ for.
And we recall this is Eastertide because His rising from the dead has proven the truth of His claim.

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