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(Part 3)


September 29, 2012
Today’s gospel: John 1:47-51

Our theme for 2013 is “Faith Works Wonders!” In our theme verse, Jesus says, “whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these” (Jn 14:12). In today’s gospel, Jesus says, “Do you believe ....? You will see greater things than this.” (Jn 1:50).

To believe is to do greater works. To believe is to see greater things. Faith works wonders!

Jesus tells Nathaniel, “I saw you under the fig tree.” (Jn 1:48b). The fig tree is a symbol of messianic peace. “Every men shall sit under his own vine or under his own fig tree, undisturbed” (Mi 4:4a). What kind of peace is it? Is it just the absence of war? No, it is the very peace of God, where nations “shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks” (Mi 4:3b). Not only will there be no more weapons of destruction, but the materials and money and technology that went into these weapons will be used for good, such as agricultural productivity. And not only will there be no more physical weapons, but the very hearts of peoples will be changed such that they will look to harmony and peaceful co-existence, as “one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” (Mi 4:3c).

Now such messianic peace would already be such a great thing. But Jesus tells Nathaniel that if he believed, he will see greater things. Then Jesus tells him, “you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (Jn 1:51). Jesus alludes here to Jacob’s ladder. Jacob “had a dream: a stairway rested on the ground, with its top reaching to the heavens; and God’s messengers were going up and down on it.” (Gen 28:12).

God then said to Jacob: “I, the Lord, am the God of your forefather Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you are lying I will give to you and your descendants. These shall be as plentiful as the dust of the earth, and through them you shall spread out east and west, north and south. In you and your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing. Know that I am with you; I will protect you wherever you go, and bring you back to this land. I will never leave you until I have done what I promised you.” (Gen 28:13-15).

God re-named Jacob as Israel (Gen 35:10). Now Jesus says of Nathaniel, “Here is a true Israelite.” (Jn 1:47a). Nathaniel, as part of Israel, would benefit from God’s promises to Jacob. And the promises were awesome--descendants as plentiful as the dust of the earth, spreading out in all directions in the world, becoming an instrument of blessing for all nations, God’s presence among them, divine protection, journeying together until the fulfillment of the promise.

Now we Christians are the new Israel and are inheritors of God’s promises. “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise.” (Gal 3:29). Jesus himself reiterates God’s promises to Jacob.

  • Divine presence (Gen 28:15a): “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt 28:20b).
  • Divine protection (Gen 28:15b): In his final prayer before his arrest, Jesus said, “When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost” (Jn 17:12a).
  • Journeying together (Gen 28:15c): The writer of the letter to the Hebrews reminds us that God has said: “I will never forsake you or abandon you.” (Heb 13:5b).

We are now embarking on the New Evangelization. If we simply BE.LI.EV.E, we will see greater things and do greater works.

First we affirm who Jesus is. “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” (Jn 1:49). Jesus is God. Jesus is Savior and Lord. Jesus is eternal King over us all, the new Israel.

Second, we do the work Jesus has commissioned all Christians to do, that is to evangelize, to proclaim the good news of salvation in him to the whole world. As we do this work and face obstacles, oppression, persecution, suffering and pain, we cling to the reality that Jesus is with us to the end of the age, that he protects us, that he will never forsake nor abandon us. We do God’s work, and God wills that His instruments will succeed. We just need to be single-hearted and single-minded. Like the true Israelite Nathaniel, there must be “no duplicity in (us).” (Jn 1:47b).

Finally, we affirm that faith works wonders, that we can become agents of messianic peace, and that in the end we ourselves will ascend the stairway to heaven to be with the Son of Man.

BE.LI.EV.E, for greater things are yet to come.

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