Show me the Father

Sts. James and Philip.  Today’s feast pairs these two lesser-known apostles.

The Gospel reading presents Philip’s wonderfully honest question to Jesus at the Last Supper, ‘Show us the Father and we will be satisfied.’  Jesus’ response is equally frank, ‘Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.’

Jesus had spoken for three years about the Father, and during the Last Supper discourse Jesus tells the Twelve he is going back to the Father; so naturally, Philip wants to see the Father now, not later.

Proclaimed in the Prologue of John’s Gospel 13 chapters earlier to be not just the Word-of-God but God-the-Word, Jesus makes clear to Philip that his face is the Father’s perfect image, a perfect replica, a spectacular refulgence and mirror-image of the Father’s face.

This reminds me of a mysterious and stunningly beautiful quote from early Church Father, St. Irenaeus,

And for this reason did the Word become the dispenser of the paternal grace for the benefit of men…revealing God indeed to men, but also presenting man to God, and preserving at the same time the invisibility of the Father, lest man should at any time become a despiser of God, and that he should always possess something towards which he might advance…

The Son-made-visible hides and reveals the Father all at once, offering a vision of God simultaneously wholly accessible and wholly inaccessible; immanent and transcendent; visible and invisible; comprehensible and incomprehensible.  We could go on with more paired paradoxes, or just savor that marvelous summary metaphor crafted by medieval mystic-author Marguerite Porete: God in Christ is the Far-Near.

Indeed, living in intimacy with such a God, in the tensions of these paradoxes, is the warp and woof of Christian spirituality’s true thrill.  It’s a wild, untamed and raucous adventure for those open to ‘come and see.’

Thank you, Philip, for voicing our desire to see the Father.  We can see you must have caught a glimpse. . .

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