Homily for May 3, Feast of Sts. Philip and James
“Whoever has seen Me, has seen the Father.” This is a very important statement from today’s Gospel reading that is faith building and reassuring.
It’s important because it makes the Father accessible. Throughout the Old Testament, God is often encountered as an awe-inspiring, mysterious and overwhelming Presence, manifested in fire and smoke, clouds and thundering noise. Even when He appears in a more human way, His face cannot be looked upon directly. When God the Son becomes incarnate in Jesus Christ, that relationship changes.
Yes, Jesus is awe inspiring, as when He walks on water, calms the sea, is transfigured on the mountaintop, and returns transformed after the Resurrection. St Paul recounts the appearances of the Risen Lord in our first reading today, and we know how much Paul’s encounter with Jesus impressed him and changed him. At times the Lord also uses hard words to try to break through the pride of hardened sinners. But Jesus is also understanding, forgiving, gentle, kind and loving. He eats, drinks, walks and converses with ordinary people. He touches the sick to heal them, He weeps for the suffering and the bereaved, and He washes the feet of the apostles to show them His love. He leads sinners to repentance, forgives those who believe and are humble, and sacrifices Himself for us. He is someone we can talk to.
Jesus teaches us that this should not be seen as contrasting with God the Father. Jesus only does what He has learned from the Father, and He and the Father are one. Seeing Jesus, albeit in our case indirectly through the eyes of the authors of the New Testament, we see and know the Father. This is immensely comforting!
It’s important not to stop reading there. Jesus says He does the Father’s works, because the Father is in Him. Jesus also promises that, if we believe in Him, we will also do His works, and even greater ones. Some great saints have indeed worked miracles, but that’s not so common, and perhaps not even the primary meaning of the Lord’s words. His works were, above all, concerned with bringing love and salvation to those in need – the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. In this, people will know if Jesus abides in us, and we in Him: if we do His works. May the Father, Son and Spirit be increasingly present in us and work through us more and more each day, for the glory of God.