24 August 2012

Just three words

St. Bartholomew
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Philip finds Nathanael and says to him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law. . .Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” Rather than leap for joy or ask for evidence, Nathanael asks a rather sarcastic question, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Rather than thump him upside the head or walk off mad, Philip answers Nathanael with an apostle's challenge, “Come and see.” Just three words. He doesn't waste time with a persuasive argument, or a professorial presentation of the evidence. He issues an invitation. With just three words, Philip answers—in a way only a believer can—every objection to the faith, every doubt, every question. Don't believe me? Come and see. Nathanael follows Philip to Jesus and he's rewarded with a greeting from Christ, “Here is a true child of Israel.” Nathanael is surprised that Jesus knows him, and Jesus reveals that he saw Nathanael long before Philip called him. With this revelation, Nathanael blurts out, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God. . .” What persuades Nathanael that Jesus is the Son of God? Jesus' greeting? Philip's faith? Some combination? Or is being the presence of the Christ persuasion enough? Come and see. 

With just three words, Philip answers—in a way only a believer can—every objection to the faith, every doubt, every question. While argument, evidence, and personal testimony will likely fail to persuade a truly reluctant soul, a direct experience of the Christ cannot fail. If the proliferation of the faith depended on intellectual gymnastics, or rhetorical eloquence, then we would all need to be philosophers and orators. But the gifts required to excel at these professions are uncommon, even specialized. Among the apostles, only Paul was specially trained in argument and rhetoric. Philip used just three words to convince Nathanael to visit Jesus. Three words that we practically minded Americans can appreciate: come and see. Don't believe me? Follow me and see for yourself. What's Philip's special training? What are his degrees? Who authorized him to convince Nathanael to visit Jesus? The challenge Philip issues is an apostolic challenge, a challenge issued by one who was sent out to bring others in. Sent by Christ, Philip goes out and bring Nathanael in. He sees for himself and believes. Jesus tells Nathanael that he will see more, much more. All b/c Philip said, “Come and see.” 

When did you last say to a reluctant soul, “Come and see the Christ”? Maybe you say it all the time. If you do, keep it up! If you don't, why not? I know, I know. . .Catholics don't care for all this evangelization stuff. Too Protestant. Too have-you-accepted-jesus-into-your-heart-as-your-personal-lord-and-savior. Or maybe you think you have to be one of those well-trained, professional apologists like Mark Shea or Patrick Madrid. A Catholic answer to every objection. A verse of scripture ready to slap on the table like an ace in poker. When these sorts of doubts arise, remember Nathanael's dismissive question and Philip's patient answer, “Come and see.” That's all you need to say. Invite. And let Christ do his work. Come and see the Lord's sacrifice. Come and see the sinners who gather together to receive his mercy. Come and see what praise and thanksgiving look like coming from the hearts and minds of ordinary men and women. Come and see that he is with us always, among us always. Come and see the goodness of the Lord, the One who died for us and lives with us still. Come and see, and you will see the repair of creation in love.

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1 comment:

  1. This homily really worked for me - grinned almost all the way through the reading of it! "Come and see", instead of "I'll just beat you up with logic until you come to your senses and agree with me!" -- I think that's called "arguing with" the ignorant. :-)

    Invite - so simple..."let Christ do his work", let it come from him, from the Holy Spirit instead of from me. I just need to get out of His way. What awesome simplicity! (of course, I've found these simple things, for me, are often the most difficult to implement.)