Why Do You Believe

5 January 2007. Friday Before Epiphany
John 1, 43-51: The Call of Nathanael

The Gospel today presents to us a pattern of discipleship. Andrew brings his brother Simon Peter and said, “We have found the Messiah.” Philip founds Nathanael, and said, “We have found him”. The role of disciples is defined by the pattern of each one bringing another to Jesus. Therefore, a disciple is one who brings another to Jesus.

This is the first point for us to reflect on: Who brought us to Jesus? Our faith grows because of many disciples of Jesus. When we were baptized, our parents and godparents promised to rear us in the faith. I remember my parents bringing us all to church every Sunday at 8 AM. As we grow older, our teachers and friends contribute to the growth --- or reduction --- of our faith. In later life, someone or an organization may have brought you to a deeper understanding and love of Jesus.

The Gospel tells us that Philip identifies Jesus as the Messiah, who comes from Nazareth. And Nathanael replied, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (May mabuti bang pwedeng manggaling sa Nazareth?). Why is the response of Nathanael very skeptical, hindi naniwala at may pagkamataray? You see, Nathanael was an Israelite: he knew the Old Testament, and there is nothing in the Old Testament that refers to God’s Messiah as coming from Nazareth. Nazareth was a quite undistinguished place, and God’s chosen One cannot come from such a small town. At that time, there was rivalry and jealousy between towns and villages. Philip did not argue, he just said, “Come and see.” Who were the “Philips” or the significant disciples in your life who brought you to a deeper understanding of Jesus?

When Nathanael finally meets Jesus, he was surprised that Jesus can see who he was. Jesus remarked, “A man who is really an Israelite! A man whom there is no guile. (Isang totoong Israelitang walang pagkukunwari!)” And Nathanael demanded how Jesus could know him in so short an acquaintance. Jesus told him that He saw him under the fig tree. What is the significance of the fig tree? The fig tree is a symbol of peace, and no one can be disturbed when under it (1 Kgs 4, 25; Micah 4, 4; Zech 3,10). Moreover, studies of the Torah were usually done under a fig tree. In Hosea 9,10, God said, “Like grapes in the wilderness, I found Israel. Like the first fruit on the fig tree... I saw your ancestors?” For Nathanael, Jesus’ remark about him meant two things: Jesus complimented Nathanael as a true Israelite, and Jesus had some divine knowledge.

With that, Nathanael believed. But Jesus poses an important question, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under a fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” It probes into the source and authenticity of the faith of Nathanael, and raises the second question for us: What therefore constitutes faith? Ano ba ang tunay na pananampalataya? Do you believe because you are afraid of hell or the punishment of God? Do you believe because of parental or peer pressure? Do you believe because you feel guilty if you do not fulfill your obligations? Do you believe because you want to see miracles? Or, who is a better believer: the one who attends mass but treats her househelp unjustly, or the one who cares for the rights of workers but declares he doesn’t believe in God?

St. Francis Xavier SJ, has a prayer, O God, I Love You (O Deus Ego Amo Te) that illustrates why he believed:

O God, I love You, I love You ---

Not out of hope of heaven for me

Nor fearing not to love and be in the everlasting burning.

You, You, my Jesus, after me did reach your arms out dying,

For my sake You suffered nails and lance,

mocked and marred countenance,

Sorrows passing number,

Sweat and care and cumber,

Yes and death, and this for me,

And You could see me sinning.

Then I, why should not I love You,

Jesus, so much in love with me?

Not for heaven’s sake; not to be out of hell by loving You;

Not for any gains I see;

But just the way that You did for me

I do love and I will love Thee:

What must I love Thee, Lord, for then?

For being my king and God. Amen.

There are two points raised today: Who brought you to Jesus and what constitutes your faith? We can do a little twist to these questions: With what you say and what you do, how do you bring others to Jesus? How do you help others deepen their understanding of Jesus?

1 comment:

Mg said...


Compassionate One,
I sit with empty hands
wondering about the losses
of my life.

I sit with empty hands
pondering the pain
of many goodbyes.

I sit with empty hands
searching for decisions
about difficult choices.

I sit with empty hands
facing the limitations
of my aging.

I sit with empty hands
looking for my life
among the broken pieces.

I sit with empty hands
sifting through dreams
that have disintegrated.

I sit with empty hands
feeling the ache and sorrow
of all my losses.

I sit with empty hands
yearning for the unfolding
of my true identity.

Compassionate One,
I sit with empty hands
trusting that your presence
embraces my pain,
shelters my vulnerability,
and gives meaning
tomy countless dyings.

-Joyce Rupp