Three 20-something women trying to figure out what it means to be lay, Catholic, and modern all at once.

August 24, 2009

The Fig Tree

Oh my, I loved today's readings for the Feast of St. Bartholomew (Who knew, Bartholomew and Nathanael are one in the same...)
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 heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
The sermon I heard today spoke of the cynicism of the world, which Nathanael embodies when he says "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"--a cynicism of failed hopes, of lost causes, and old sorrows. Philip's response is perfect: "Come and see." (Oh, I love Philip--that's the only thing you can say to a cynic. No logic will break him.)

In re-reading the passage I am struck by the surge of emotion with which Nathanael responds to Christ. Jesus simply says "I saw you under the fig tree," and this makes Nathanael believe. I wonder what Nathanael was doing under the fig tree. Was he despairing? Was he empty? Was he bargaining with God? Was he like Augustine in the garden, begging for an act of grace? Or was he just eating his lunch, resting, praying?

It is one of those details (like Jesus drawing in the dust before the adulterous woman) that makes the Gospel so real and present. Open question though it may be, it reminds me that God is with us in every moment, no matter how small.

(Fig and Knife, by Julian Merrow-Smith.)


Julian said...

I woke up this morning and read the readings online (a new morning ritual) and was struck by many similiar sentiments. Really, really beautiful stuff, this Word of God :)

Angela Miceli said...

I also heard a sermon on EWTN with very similar statements....God is so good. I thought to often have I been in the place of Nathanael sitting under the tree....

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