16 May 2014

'Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me?' Sunday Reflections, 5th Sunday of Easter Year A

El Greco, 1610-14, Museo de El Greco, Toledo [Web Gallery of Art]

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)                                  

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Jesus said to his disciples:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.  And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.

El Greco, 1610-14, Museo de El Greco, Toledo [Web Gallery of Art]

About forty years ago I gave a live-in weekend retreat to students graduating from a high school for girls in the Philippines run by the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary. Most of the girls were around 16. I noticed one girl  - I'll call her Lucy -who was small in stature behaving rather immaturely, though not misbehaving, as the weekend went on. At times she would be running around like a child in kindergarten. The retreatants had an opportunity, insofar as time allowed, to meet me individually in the home economics building. As is usual on such occasions tears would be shed. When Lucy noticed tear-stains on some of her classmates she'd laugh at them

But then she came to see me. There was aa life-size inflatable doll in the room. She clung on to it and cried her heart out for five or ten minutes before I could get her to calm down. Then she said to me, Father, my parents give me everything I want. But they never ask me 'How did you do in school today?' And they never even scold me.

Lucy could see clearly, because of its absence in her life, what perhaps most of her companions at their age didn't: the daily reality of the love of their parents, sometimes expressed in scolding.

Nobody likes a scolding but most of us, when we reflect on it, see it as a sign of care, of love. I've told the story of Lucy to many groups of young people over the years and always get nods of recognition.

When Philip asked him, Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied, I wonder if Jesus felt some mild exasperation? This incident reminds me of what the father in the story of the Prodigal Son said to the elder son, Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours (Luke 15:31). The well behaved son had failed to see this, as he failed to see the wonder of this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found (Luke 15:32).

After the sudden death of Fr Patrick Sheehy at the age of 80 in St Columban's, Ireland, in December 1999 his fellow Columbans living there, many of them retired and/or infirm, began to notice that certain little things weren't being done anymore, such as letters and newspapers being delivered to priests unable to get around easily. When Father Pat retired he took it upon himself to do such little things for others, without being asked and without being noticed too much.

It was only in its absence that many saw clearly the quiet, loving thoughtfulness of Father Pat, just as Lucy saw clearly in its absence what she longed for. Father Pat, who had experienced being expelled from China five years after going there, followed by many years of service as a priest in Japan, interrupted for a couple of years because of poor health, was able to choose to show us the Father to his brother priests, without fanfare. Lucy through her immature behaviour was crying out, without being aware of it, to be 'shown the Father'.

We are in the middle of the Easter Season when we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, celebrating that fact that, in the words of St Peter in the second reading today, that we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). God's mighty acts are perhaps most often seen in the 'little acts' of those around us.

The readings invite us to see the Father's presence in the daily realities of our lives, the many blessings that come to us through others and that we often don't see clearly as blessings. And the readings invite us to be aware of the many 'Lucys' around us who in one way or another are crying out, Show us the Father.

'Lucy' would be in her mid-50s now. I've no idea what became of her but perhaps each of us might offer a prayer for her.

Antiphona ad Communionem  Cf Jn 15:1,5

Ego sum vitis vera et vos palmites, dicit Dominus;
qui manet in me et ego in eo, hic fecit fructum multum, alleluia.

Communion Antiphon  Cf John 15:1,5

I am the true vine and you are the branches, says the Lord.
Whoever remains in me, and I in him, bears fruit in plenty, alleluia.

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