"He who looks on the Son sees, in portrait, the Father."
Philip said to Jesus,
“Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus said to him, “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?
We hear a lot about the Apostles during the Easter Season. And this Sunday is no exception as we hear Thomas and Philip ask questions and make requests that help take us further into the teachings of Jesus.
Although we know relatively little about these two—which is true for all of the Apostles—they form an essential part of our spiritual heritage, acting as an important bridge between the life and ministry of Jesus and the first generations of Christians. Although Jesus was no longer physically present to the community after his Ascension into Heaven, Thomas, Philip, and the rest of the Apostles shared their memories of Jesus and their faith, helping those early Christians have their own experience of how the Risen Lord was still present and at work within the Church.
In a reflection on the life of Saint Philip—which includes part of the text from the Gospel of John that we hear in this Sunday’s liturgy—Pope Benedict XVI recalled:
During the Last Supper, after Jesus affirmed that to know him was also to know the Father, Philip quite ingenuously asks him: “Lord show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.” Jesus answered with a gentle rebuke: “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip… Believe in me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.”
These words are among the most exalted in John’s Gospel. They contain a true and proper revelation… Jesus refers to his own person as such, letting it be understood that it is possible to understand him not only through his words but rather, simply through what he is… We can certainly say that God gave himself a human face, the Face of Jesus, and consequently, from now on, if we truly want to know the Face of God, all we have to do is contemplate the Face of Jesus! In his Face we truly see who God is and what he looks like!
This Sunday’s Gospel helps us to enter more deeply into the mystery of the Easter Season by helping us understand, in a fuller way, who Jesus is and what the Resurrection means for us and our lives. But Philip’s request—“Lord, show us the Father”—also hints that even the Apostles, as close as they were to Jesus, didn’t fully understand who he was or grasp the meaning of his mission.
How could they? After all, Jesus wasn’t the kind of Messiah that the People of Israel had been hoping or praying for. The Reign of God proclaimed by Jesus wasn’t about politics or a kingdom of wealth or power. Instead, Jesus offered his followers, just as he offers each of us, the possibility of a new and life-changing relationship with God and each other within the community of the Church.
We can’t fault Philip for his request because he was trying to understand. But, as Sister Barbara Reid, O.P., has observed, “his willingness to settle for a mere glimpse of the One who invites us into deep, abiding union is like stopping at a cheap motel when palatial accommodations are offered. We do know the way into the untroubled heart of God, and we have seen the fullness of the Divine visible in Jesus.”
In the end, Jesus offers Philip much, much more than a “glimpse” of the Father. Jesus promises the gift of peace in our true and lasting home within the Reign of God for all eternity. The same opportunity is offered us, when we set aside our limited perspectives and look with the eyes of faith and trust in the One who gave himself up for us.
Who is Jesus for you? How does this Gospel passage invite you to a deeper understanding?
Why do you think this Gospel has been selected for the Easter Season?
How are you continuing your celebration of Easter? What is your prayer in these days?
Words of Wisdom: “He who looks on the Son sees, in portrait, the Father. Notice what kind of portrait is spoken of. It is truth, righteousness, the power of God. It is not silent, for it is the Word. It is not insensible, for it is Wisdom. It is not vain and foolish, for it is power. It is not soulless, for it is the life. It is not dead, for it is the resurrection.”—Saint Ambrose of Milan