DESIRE TO SEE GOD
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 13:44-52; PS 98:1-4; JOHN 14:7-14 ]
Philip said to Jesus, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” This is what every man is seeking deep within him, even if he does not acknowledge the reality of God or believe in Him. But every man is seeking for truth and life. Only God is truth and all truths rest in Him. Only God is fullness of life. Outside God, there is no absolute truth or life but partial participation in His truth and love. This was what Jesus meant when He told Thomas, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Jn 14:6)
But how can we see the Father if not in Jesus because the Father is pure Spirit? When Philip asked Jesus for the grace to see the Father, he was asking for what all the prophets of old, such as Isaiah including Moses sought. “Moses said, ‘Show me your glory, I pray.’ And he said, ‘I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The Lord’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,’ he said, ‘you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.'” (Ex 33:18-20)
Indeed, Jesus wants us to have more than just an encounter with God in Spirit. He wants us to encounter His Father in His very being. This is the purpose of the incarnation. His identity with the Father was the basis for us to encounter God in person, His life, words and deeds. Jesus said to Philip, “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. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.” Jesus does not just represent the Father but He is the presence of the Father although He is not the Father.
The works of Jesus verify His identity with the Father. He told Philip, “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves.” Jesus’ whole life expresses the Father’s love and mercy for humanity. But what is the greatest works which is the word for “miracle” in John’s gospel? In John’s gospel, there are recorded seven signs or works of Jesus. The culminating sign or the greatest of Jesus’ works was His passion, death and resurrection. In His passion and death, Jesus revealed to us the depth of God’s mercy and love and forgiveness of our sins. In His resurrection, He was raised to life and in turn bestowed life on us in the Holy Spirit.
What is needed for us is to believe. It is not enough to see physically with our eyes the miracles that Jesus performed, or to know intellectually through study and knowledge that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life but we must believe. The incarnation is meant to show forth the glory of God in Jesus. Many people see the miracles of God at work in the lives of others and yet are without faith. They assign them to coincidence, luck or some causes that science perhaps will answer in the future. But faith is required; otherwise, like the Jews we will not see Jesus’ real identity as the Son of God. Knowledge through understanding and study is also important for us to come to know Jesus. But such insights might get us nowhere. Very often, because of pride and selfish interests, we blind our eyes to the truth. Polemics has its limitations because faith in God cannot be reasoned and proven. This was what happened when Paul was preaching in Antioch. “The whole town of Antioch assembled to hear the word of God. When they saw the crowds, the Jews, prompted by jealousy, used blasphemies and contradicted everything Paul said.”
Faith in Jesus is the required response to seeing the Father in Him. But how does one know He has faith in Christ? It must be seen in works. These works do not just refer to the miraculous works that the apostles did through the signs and wonders that they performed in the name of Jesus. These are included, but they are works of love and mercy. Anyone who believes in Jesus is in union with Him in mind and heart, and therefore expresses his life in the same way Jesus did. Good works do bring about our salvation but they remain the effects of the grace of God given to us in Christ Jesus. As St Paul says, “the only thing that counts is faith working through love.” (Gal 5:6) And St James wrote, “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.” (Jms 2:17f)
These works therefore must be accomplished not apart from Jesus but with Him and through Him. “Amen, amen I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask for in my name I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask for anything in my name, I will do it.” In returning to the Father, the Lord comes to us in a new way in the Holy Spirit. By dwelling in us in the Holy Spirit, the Lord Jesus continues to work through the apostles and the Church. That is why it is necessary that those who do the work of Jesus must ask in prayer so that the Father might be glorified in Christ. Only those prayers that are asked in the mind of Jesus, with the same heart and intention, would be answered. To ask everything in His name is more than a mere utterance of His name but allowing Jesus to act in and through us, in union with Him.
When someone believes in Jesus, shares in His mind and heart, lives His life of love and service, such a person encounters God within himself, in others and in the works he does. This is what is happening to those who believe in Jesus. They no longer live for themselves but for others. They no longer work for themselves but for the glory of God and for their fellowmen. By allowing God to work in and through them, they experience God’s mighty power and love. Indeed, those who give themselves to Jesus and put no obstacles to Him working in their lives, receive much joy and fulfilment. Like John the Baptist, we also say, “He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. For this reason my joy has been fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.” (Jn 3:29f)
Today, we who have seen God must go and proclaim the salvation of God in our lives so that our faith remains alive. This is what the psalmist is asking of us. “Sing a new song to the Lord for he has worked wonders. His right hand and his holy arm have brought salvation. The Lord has made known his salvation; has shown his justice to the nations. He has remembered his truth and love for the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Shout to the Lord, all the earth, ring out your joy.” Like the Christians, we too are called to be a light for the nations, so that His salvation may reach the ends of the earth. With St Paul we are to proclaim the Word of God boldly.
Even when we are rejected by some because of pride, jealousy or vested interests, we need to proclaim the Word to those who want to hear them. Like St Paul we should not be discouraged. He had seen the Lord and He knew that Christ is the Way to fullness of truth and life. He is the revealer of the Father. The truth is that the message of eternal life is given to all. Blessed are those who receive it as the pagans did. “It made the pagans very happy to hear this and they thanked the Lord for his message; all who were destined for eternal life became believers. Thus the word of the Lord spread through the whole countryside.” So long as we are one in the Lord, we will never be discouraged by failure and rejection. But like the apostles, we know our conscience is clear that we have done what we should and are filled with the joy of the Spirit. “So they shook the dust from their feet in defiance and went off to Iconium; but the disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.”
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
Note: You may share this reflection with someone. However, please note that reflections are not archived online, nor will they be available via email request.