Gospel reflection for May 7, 2024, Fifth Sunday of Easter

It might seem counterintuitive that each step of the journey of faith becomes more challenging. Our faith as children is innocent, filled with awe and wonder as we are more open to the world around us. But life experiences interrupt and mar that innocence and faith. At the Last Supper, as Jesus is preparing for his Death, he challenges the disciples to deepen their faith and to follow him into the seeming unknown -- the Father’s House. Philip voices the simple question, which they probably all felt -- “we do not know where you are going, how can we know the way?”

It might seem strange to us that these men, those closest to Jesus who were with him for the entirety of his public mission, are still confused as to who he is and where he is going. Yet, the question that Philip poses is one that so many of us struggle with in our own lives: “Just show us the Father.”

Philip wants to believe. He trusts Jesus, though he seems confused. From the very beginning he has recognized Jesus as the Messiah. In John’s Gospel it is Philip who goes to fetch his friend Nathanael and bring him to Jesus because he recognized Jesus as the one that the prophets foretold. He clearly announces that Jesus is the Messiah. 

So now here we are, all this time later, assembled in the upper room for the celebration of what becomes the Last Supper, and Philip expresses his uncertainty. He wants more. 

All of the signs he has seen Jesus perform. All of the hours he has heard Jesus preach. The overwhelming sense of being in God’s presence that must have struck these disciples at various moments in the ministry of Jesus, and yet he wants more. He wants to see the Father. 

There is a certain innocence here. Perhaps as he has grown in his understanding of Jesus and he sees Jesus as much more than the political messiah that so many were expecting, he needs yet one more sign. 

On one hand it is hard to blame him. Each one of us longs for a revelatory moment in our lives. We carry with us the depth of faith, but it is common that this faith-encounter is peppered with moments of doubt and uncertainty. We hear of great visionaries, we hear of ordinary people with extraordinary and even miraculous moments in their lives, yet it doesn’t happen to me; it doesn’t happen for me; it doesn’t even happen to anyone I know.

Just show me the Father.

Philip desires to walk from the certainty of faith to the certainty of knowing. That is not the gift, that is not what Jesus comes to offer us. He invites us to faith in him, in faith of the fulfillment of the promises he makes; the hope in what is yet to come. 

If we all had the certainty of knowledge then there would be no need for a life of faith. We could take for granted that which we now only know by faith.

As we walk the walk of faith we know others -- perhaps even many -- who do not walk this way. Some seem to live a confident uncertainty without faith (agnostics) and some even appear to walk the certainty of not knowing and knowing not (atheists). 

Jesus asks us to walk with him into the light of faith. While some see the walk in faith as a walk in the dark, Jesus continually points out to us that this is a walk into the light, not the darkness. 

The works that Jesus did in his ministry pointed always to the Father. The work that we continue to do in his name shows the Father to the world and the world to the Father. Yet so many times and in so many we miss what we are seeing and do not understand who it is that we are showing. 

Everything about our work, our life of faith, points to the Father and prepares us for a share in the life promised to us.

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.

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