This is the message you have heard from the beginning:
we should love one another,
unlike Cain who belonged to the Evil One
and slaughtered his brother.
Why did he slaughter him?
Because his own works were evil,
and those of his brother righteous.
Do not be amazed, then, brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.
We know that we have passed from death to life
because we love our brothers.
Whoever does not love remains in death.
Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer,
and you know that no murderer has eternal life remaining in him.
The way we came to know love
was that he laid down his life for us;
so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.
If someone who has worldly means
sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion,
how can the love of God remain in him?
Children, let us love not in word or speech
but in deed and truth.
Now this is how we shall know that we belong to the truth
and reassure our hearts before him
in whatever our hearts condemn,
for God is greater than our hearts and knows everything.
Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us,
we have confidence in God.
Jesus decided to go to Galilee, and he found Philip.
And Jesus said to him, “Follow me.”
Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the town of Andrew and Peter.
Philip found Nathanael and told him,
“We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law,
and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.”
But Nathanael said to him,
“Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him,
“Here is a true child of Israel.
There is no duplicity in him.”
Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”
Nathanael answered him,
“Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“Do you believe
because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree?
You will see greater things than this.”
And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
you will see the sky opened and the angels of God
ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
I. THEME: To love someone is to wish the best for him.
Love is the main force that helps people to overcome all obstacles in life. People want to love and desire to be loved. But what is the real love?
Today readings help us to recognize what is the real love. In the first reading, God demonstrates His love by giving us His Only Son to die for us and to take away our sins. In order to show our love, we must also express in action through our keeping of His commandments, especially the commandment of love. In the Gospel, Philip showed his love to Nathanael by inviting him to meet Jesus in order to receive the salvation. Jesus showed his love to Nathanael by revealing to him many secrets that he never experience in his life.
1/ Reading I: Christians must truly love one another and express it by deeds.
2.1/ The importance of the commandment of love.
(1) Love must be expressed by deeds: St. John advised his disciples: “Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth, and reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God.” In other place, he wrote: “If any one says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 Jn 4:20). According to St. John, love and truth can’t be separated.
(2) God is greater than our hearts: This is the difficult sentence to understand and there are two ways to understand this sentence.
– First, if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts because He knows all. It means because of sins, we can’t avoid God’s anger.
– Second, if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts because God knows not only our sins but also our love, desire, weakness and diseases; therefore, God understands and is ready to forgive our sins. The latter is the correct understanding.
Thomas à Kempis analyzed the difference between God and human beings as follows: “Men look for result but God, intention.” For example, though king David wasn’t permitted to build a house for God; he built His house by desire (1 Kgs 8:17-18). A French proverb said, “to know all is to forgive all.” If there is love in our heart, we can be confident to come to God. In another place, St. John also said, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 Jn 4:18).
2.2/ We must keep his commandments: Later of this passage, St. John wrote: “And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us” (1 Jn 3:23). In Johannine Writings, to believe in Christ and to love others are his two main topics. People must believe in Christ in order to have eternal life, and love others to be his disciples. To keep God’s commandment is nothing other than to keep His commandment of love, or to be short, “to love God and others.” When we keep God’s commandment of love, two things are guaranteed for us:
(1) Any thing we ask shall be granted for us, because we kept His commandment and did what pleases Him.
(2) Whoever keeps God’s commandment, he remains in God and God in him. Based on this we know God remains in us, that is the Holy Spirit whom God bestowed on us. The Holy Spirit himself is love.
2/ Gospel: “Come and see!”
2.1/ One must avoid prejudice to learn new things: St. Thomas Aquinas stated: “to love is to wish good things for that person.” During Jesus’ public ministry, we saw many times of this invitation: when one has recognized Christ, he invited people to come to him. For examples, John Baptist introduced Christ for his two disciples and sent them to follow Jesus (Jn 1:35-37). Andrew introduced his brother, Peter, to Christ (Jn 1:40-42). In today passage, Philip invited Nathanael to come to Jesus and said: “We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
Prejudice can confine and prevent people to know the truth. Two things may prevent Nathanael to come to Jesus: First, the competition between two closed villages. Nathanael’s village was Cana; there might be a competition between Cana and Nazareth because they are close. Second, according to Scripture (Mic 5:1-2), the Messiah shall be born in Bethlehem, David’s village; not in Nazareth, an unknown village from the north. Facing Nathanael’s despised remark, Philip didn’t loose heart, but encouraged him “to come and see!” Nathanael, due to his friendship with Philip, came to see Christ.
2.2/ The encounter between Christ and Nathanael.
(1) Christ aroused Nathanael’s faith: Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” This is the idea of Psalm 32:2: “Blessed is the man to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.” Nathanael startled because he never met Jesus while Jesus knew all of his life. Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
(2) Christ promised to let Nathanael to see more mighty things: Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.”
– Jacob’s vision of the ladder: The phrase “the angels of God ascending and descending” reminded us the ladder in Jacob’s dream at Bethel (Gen 28:12-13). Christ implied he is this ladder which the angels of God shall be ascending and descending, to offer people’s prayers to God and to convey God’s grace to people.
– Who is Nathanael whom St. John mentioned here? There are at least 3 opinions: (1) An ideal image for the Israelites; (2) It might be Paul or the beloved disciple; and (3), he is Bartholomew whom the Synoptics mentioned in the list of the Twelve. The Church accepted the last explanation.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
God has done everything to show His immense love for us. We need to respond to God’s love through keeping His commandment, especially the commandment of love.