The vast network of highways allows food to be grown at great distances from the cities, while air travel allows people to do commerce and vacation virtually anywhere across the globe.
Naturally enough access to modern local and international transport, and frequency of use, is connected to the ability to pay.
Millions of people throughout the world however live either in countries without infrastructures that facilitate travel other than by walking: to work the fields, get water, go to school.
I have seen homeless people from the city center where the shelters and soup kitchens are, and the recycling plant that pays for empty bottles and cans, some seventy-six blocks away from the center, dumpster diving for said recyclables.
Daily thousands of our brothers and sisters, again mostly on foot, either flee advancing terrorists or leave their homelands of extreme poverty and unemployment in search of a better life.
In the days when Jesus lived His public life on earth camels, horses, donkeys were accessible for those who either owned such outright or could afford to pay to travel by such means. There was also travel by boat across lakes and even the seas between nations.
Most ordinary people, like Jesus Himself, walked wherever they had to go and both the Synoptics and the Gospel according to St. John have many references to Jesus walking from place to place and mention the crowds who either followed Him or walked to find Him.
What an experience it must have been for God Incarnate, Jesus, to walk the very earth He, with the Father and the Holy Spirit had created!
Jesus was not simply walking the earth, He was walking among us, loving us, seeking us out as He does still, our Risen Beloved Redeemer, moving amongst us in the various disguises in particular of the poor, the hungry, the naked, the thirsty, the lonely, the imprisoned [cf. Mt. 25: 31-46].
He also is constantly at the door of our hearts, seeking our invitation that He may enter. More He is more intimate to us than we are to our very selves.
V.43- The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee….
Once again there are words before us we should not rush past to get to the ‘why.’
Each of us has desire, reflection, decision, choice, action unfolding in every moment of our lives and as desire is fulfilled, reflection acted upon, decisions made so unfold our lives for good or ill.
This beginning of verse 43 is a reminder the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Incarnate Son of God, God Himself in His humanity is gifted, like ourselves, with free will and Himself desires, reflects, decides, chooses, acts.
V.43 - …..and He found Philip…..
One of the reasons children enjoy playing hide-n-seek is precisely the thrill of being found.
Being found affirms they are known and beloved.
Even adults are thrilled by the surprise of being ‘found’ by a loved one or a friend unexpectedly, for example, at the mall or in a restaurant or simply out for a walk.
Such joy flows upward from the very pages of the Holy Gospel at those simple words and He found, a joy which each of us is offered if we but stand still and await in the depths of each moment for Jesus, again and again and again to find us!
V.43-…and said to him, “Follow Me.”
The Holy Gospel should never be meditated upon, much less read as some story, as an account of the life/lives of others, Jesus in first place always, nor as some historical record of events in time, chronological time, that are over and done with!
We should not simply ‘read’ any of Sacred Scripture, the Holy Gospel in particular.
Rather we should approach these sacred words with faith, reverence, an open and listening heart: For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. [Heb.4.12]
Thus if we strive to enter into each word, event within the Holy Gospel, to be as present and participant as possible when Jesus says “Follow Me”, we will hear Him speaking directly to us and can choose, in that moment, to follow Him into the graced depths of the present moment, the duty of the moment.
Always we are free.
Likewise always He will keep inviting us.
Indeed the invitation to follow Him is never a one of.
So long as our hearts beat, so constantly does He invite.
V.44- Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
In 12:21 Philip is again identified as being from Bethsaida and Andrew is mentioned also. Bethsaida is also mentioned in Mark 8: 22-26 as the place where Jesus heals a blind man.
Place is important both in salvation history, in the whole story from Genesis to Revelation, in the life of Christ, and in our own lives.
The place of our ancestors, the place of our birth and growing up, the places we choose as adults to study, work, travel, settle down: in our day in developed countries ‘place’ changes frequently either with job change or growing family; for some people place-change is forced upon them by war or famine or the seeking of a better life; some, such as refugees, especially after WWII, are called ‘dis-placed’ persons, thereby noting the importance of place in life.
Every event of salvation history, every event in the life of Jesus, every event in our own lives takes place ‘some-place’!
In his book LIVING BETWEEN WORLDS, Philip Sheldrake, writing about the Celtic Christians and monastics search for the ideal place to live writes extensively about their search for, and once found living in, a particular location deemed to be the ‘thin place’, that is a particular location where the ‘…membrane between this world and the other world, between the material and the spiritual was very permeable..” [p.7]…..”Human beings live permanently in a world that is a boundary place.” [p.46]
Through baptism our actual, real, primary ‘place’ is within the Body of Christ, as members of His Mystical Body, within the communal place which is the Church, the Church being simultaneously present in heaven as Communion of Saints, in Purgatory and across the globe.
The membrane between any ‘place’ geographically where we are on earth and the ‘other world’ that is the Kingdom of Heaven, is particularly thin, translucent really and permeable within Holy Mass in particular and in Holy Communion when the glorified risen Jesus, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity comes and dwells anew within us.
The real import of all places mentioned in the Gospel, of all places in our lives, the particular place we are in in this moment can be, should be, usually is the place of encounter with Christ, the real place to be with Him and when we live and move and have our being and doing all things with Him, in Him, through Him the place has no boundaries whatsoever.
V.45 – Philip found Nathaniel and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses said in the law, and also the prophets wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
We have here another example of the real template of evangelization, namely one who has encountered Jesus goes to one who has not and proclaims Jesus.
v.46 – And Nathaniel said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
Who among us has not experienced, or perhaps even said ourselves, some such remark as Nathaniel’s about another country, city, neighbourhood, or worse about people coming from a particular ethnic or religious background?
Prejudice is precisely what it is: pre-judging without objective, factual information.
The verse continues with Philip not being deterred in the least, so great is his love for his friend, so anxious is he to share with his friend encounter with Jesus: Philip said to him, “Come and see.”, the very words Jesus gave to the others when they asked Jesus where He lived.
If we wish to know the place, the ‘thin place’ of encounter with Jesus then we must go and seek, in a word go to the place where Jesus is and invites us, there to be with Him.
V. 47 – Jesus saw Nathaniel coming toward Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!”
Jesus is declaring that Nathaniel is pure of heart and it is the pure of heart who shall see God. Here too we sense the depth of Jesus’ love for Nathaniel.
V. 48 – Nathaniel said to Him, “How do You know me?”
One of the ways we experience our sense of place in time, space, location, relationships, indeed with self, is the affirmation and recognition of existence which flows from knowing: being known by other, knowing self.
We simply know our parents know us without question, likewise with siblings, but outside of the family we have to come to know others and allow others to know us in order to be known.
Most of us have had the experience of seeing someone who seems familiar, but for some reason we are not certain, and posing the question: “Do I know you?”, or having the question posed to us.
We might even ask, or be asked: “Where do I know you from?”
Nathaniel however asks the ‘how’ question because Nathaniel is seeking the Messiah and suddenly finds himself in the presence of the one whom Philip asserts is indeed He, so there is a depth, an expectant anxiousness, in the sense of hungering for the One, in Nathaniel’s question.
How well known are we?
Every breath we take, every heartbeat affirms that we are indeed known, and not just known: belovedly known by Love Himself.
“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you…” [Jer. 1:5]
How intimately are we thus known?
He numbers the multitude of the stars and calls them by name…..[Ps. 147:4]
“Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore: you are of more value than many sparrows.” [Lk. 12:6,7]
None of the stars, no sparrow is created in the image and likeness of God Himself. Yet our Heavenly Father, Jesus our Saviour, the Holy Spirit who name each star, forget no sparrow, number the hairs of our head, know us intimately, lovingly.
Perhaps we have no sense of being truly known by someone else, perhaps the place where we are is one of apparent aloneness and definite loneliness, still we are indeed known and beloved.
While sinless Himself Jesus is like us in all things, even to experience the need to be known: “But who do you say that I am?” [Mk.8:29]
This ask of Jesus is for each of us to answer.
Jesus’ answer to Nathaniel echoes the word spoken to Jeremiah in the sense of the knowing before: Jesus answered him and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”
V. 49 – Nathaniel answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
Nathaniel’s joy is expressed in a statement of faith, belief that the One with whom he is speaking is the long awaited Messiah, the Desired One.
V. 50/51 – Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
In ancient times, in the early history of the Chosen People, bearers through the centuries of the promise of the Messiah who would come and redeem us, Jacob had a dream and in that dream …behold a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. [Gn. 28:12]
Jesus Himself is the fulfillment of Jacob’s dream for Jesus is the ‘ladder’ who has come down to us from the Father and returning to the Father sends down the Holy Spirit to sanctify us; Jesus is the real connection between heaven and earth.