19 January, 2015

Homily for the Second Sunday of Epiphany (B) - Come and See

John 1:43-51
‘We have found Jesus’. Nathanael said, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip replied, ‘Come and see.’
In the Sundays of Epiphany the liturgy guides us to Jesus as he is revealed to the world as its Saviour. Today, we see a slight break with the earlier narratives of Epiphany – with the coming of the Magi and the Baptism of Jesus. In these previous stories, Jesus is alone or accompanied by his family, but today Jesus manifests himself as the awaited Messiah within the company of his first disciples. This is a subtle break, but an important one nonetheless; as Jesus begins his ministry among us and as he reveals himself to us he chooses to do so with and through his disciples.

Philip and Nathanael - Canterbury Cathedral
Earlier in John’s gospel Jesus encounters his first two followers, Andrew and the beloved disciple, and we are told that, as Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Teacher, where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where he was staying, and they abided with him (1:38-39). After this first meeting, Andrew finds his brother Peter and we are told that he announces, ‘We have found the Messiah’, and then that he actually brings his brother to Jesus (1:41). Today, as a continuation of this story, Philip repeats this patter as he begins his work of evangelization by bringing others to Jesus.

It seems that being with Jesus, abiding with him, compels the disciples to imitate him from a very early stage, to become like him, and to invite others into his community. This is what Philip does in today’s story, but in a very special way, that is by using the very same invite Jesus has used with Andrew; after hearing Nathanael sceptic response to his announcement, he confidently yet patiently says to the man, ‘Come and see’ (1:46).
In their work of evangelization both Andrew and Philip do not say ‘I’m a Christian now, you know.’ or ‘Jesus is my personal saviour’. No. They do no flaunt or claim any moral or spiritual superiority over others, but in joy, confidence, and humility they invite those whom they know to ‘Come and see’ Jesus in their midst; to come and see the Epiphany of God among them. They reach out to others and invite them in; they seek to attract them patiently to join in their community.

In this sense, we are all called to be act like Philip. Our common vocation is to reach out, especially to those whom we know already, and to invite the Nathanaels of our times to come and see in the Lord manifested in our midst. 
But there are two conditions we must fulfil in order to do this.
First, we must be courageous disciples, and secondly, we must be lovers of the community Jesus gathers around himself.

To be courageous disciples, sounds really prosaic, but it is a lot easier to say than to really put into practice. We must be those who abide with Jesus constantly and have offered to him our daily life each according to his or her specific vocation. We must go where he goes, do what he does, without holding back or counting the cost. This resolve to be true disciples is very important, anything less, anything less courageous or costly risks to be shunned by others as hypocrisy.

To be lovers of community, means being lovers of the Church – of that unique gathering of extremely different people in and through which Jesus has chosen to manifest himself to the world. It means learning to put away the word “I” and start using “We” instead. John’s gospel highlights this very well. Here Philip is described within the context of the earliest community united around Jesus. So, when Philp begins his work of evangelization he is not a lone preacher, he is not a random character in the story, but he is part of something greater than himself. Also, look at what he says to Nathanael. Does he say, ‘I have found Jesus?’ No. Philip saysWe have found Jesus’. He announces, ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus.(1:45) We, not I.
‘We have found Jesus’ is an enthusiastic announcement that plants the seed of community in others; it’s an open invitation to join in.

In order to be like Philip and to call the Nathanaels of our times we must courageous disciples and lovers of community. But I can already hear our families, our friends echoing the scepticism of Nathanael and saying to us, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ (1:46) or rather, ‘Can anything good come out of the Church?’ It is a hurtful and sometimes hard question to answer, particularly at a time when the Church may seem tired and a bit confused; at a time when she is hurting in many places and divided. Yet, today’s gospel provides us with a something to respond to it, the simple invitation ‘Come and see’.
If we are courageous disciples and lovers of community then our reaching out and our evangelization will be credible. If we do this, we will be able to respond positively to the scepticism of society and to say in humility, ‘Come and see Jesus in our Church community; come and see how he has changed us from loners into brothers and sisters; come and see how we have found in him all that we have ever truly craved and desired for. Come and see.’

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