First Reading: From the Book of Revelation 21:9-14
9 One of the seven angels that had the seven bowls full of the seven final plagues came to speak to me and said, ‘Come here and I will show you the bride that the Lamb has married.’
10 In the spirit, he carried me to the top of a very high mountain, and showed me Jerusalem, the holy city, coming down out of heaven from God.
11 It had all the glory of God and glittered like some precious jewel of crystal-clear diamond.
12 Its wall was of a great height and had twelve gates; at each of the twelve gates there was an angel, and over the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel;
13 on the east there were three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates.
14 The city walls stood on twelve foundation stones, each one of which bore the name of one of the twelveapostles of the Lamb.
Responsorial Psalm: From Psalms 145:10-11, 12-13, 17-18
10 All your creatures shall thank you, Yahweh, and your faithful shall bless you.
11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingship and tell of your might,
12 making known your mighty deeds to the children of Adam, the glory and majesty of your kingship.
13 Your kingship is a kingship for ever, your reign lasts from age to age. Yahweh is trustworthy in all his words, and upright in all his deeds.
17 Upright in all that he does, Yahweh acts only in faithful love.
18 He is close to all who call upon him, all who call on him from the heart.
Gospel Reading: From The Gospel Account of Saint John 1:45-51
45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.’
46 Nathanael said to him, ‘From Nazareth? Can anything good come from that place?’ Philip replied, ‘Come and see.’
47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming he said of him, ‘There, truly, is an Israelite in whom there is no deception.’
48 Nathanael asked, ‘How do you know me?’ Jesus replied, ‘Before Philip came to call you, I saw you under the fig tree.’
49 Nathanael answered, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the king of Israel.’
50 Jesus replied, ‘You believe that just because I said: I saw you under the fig tree. You are going to see greater things than that.’
51 And then he added, ‘In all truth I tell you, you will see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending over the Son of man.’
Theme: Come and see
How can we know with certainty that Jesus is truly who he claims to be – the Son of God and Savior of the world? Philip was eager to tell his friend Nathaniel (who is also known as Bartholomew in Matthew 10:3 and Luke 6:14) about his decision to be a disciple of Jesus. Philip tried to convince his friend that Jesus was the Messiah, whom Moses and the prophets had foretold. Nathanial was very skeptical because he didn’t think it was possible for the Messiah to come from Nazareth, a town in Galilee. Nathaniel not only disliked the town of Nazareth, he despised its residents as unworthy of religious toleration. “How could anything good come from such a place?”
Nazareth was at the crossroads of the ancient world where people from different cultures and religions would pass through. Perhaps Nathaniel thought its religious teachers were not orthodox in their understanding and interpretation of the law of Moses. Besides, how could the Messiah come from Galilee when the prophets said he would come from Bethlehem of Judaea? Aren’t we all a bit like Nathaniel? We are skeptical when someone tries to convince us of the truth until we can comprehend it for ourselves.
A skeptical but earnest searching for God’s truth
So what kind of proof did Philip offer to Nathanael? Rather than argue with his friend, Philip took the wiser strategy of inviting Nathanael to “come and see” for himself who this Jesus claimed to be. Clever arguments rarely win people to the gospel; but an encounter with the person of Jesus Christ can change one’s life forever. When people are receptive to the word of Christ and when they see his love in action, the Lord Jesus himself, through the power of the Holy Spirit, touches their hearts and opens their minds to God’s revelation.
When Philip brought Nathanael to Jesus, Jesus did something which only God could do! He opened Nathanael’s heart and his innermost thoughts and desires to God’s revelation. Jesus called Nathanael a true “Israelite in whom there is no guile.” God had chosen Jacob, who was given the name Israel, over his twin brother Essau, because Jacob was a man of faith, without guile or cunning like Essau (Genesis 25:27). Nathanael, like Jacob, hungered for God and believed in God’s promises. Nathanael knew the scriptures; he had read the law and the prophets. And like Jacob he was waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promises to his people Israel. Nathanael was an earnest seeker of God. He not only sought to grow in understanding of God’s word, but he sought an intimate personal relationship with God as well. That is why he was willing to meet Jesus, to see if perhaps this miracle worker from Galilee might be the long-awaited Messiah and Savior.
God’s word brings blessing and refreshment for those who reflect on it
What is the significance of Jesus’ revelation of seeing Nathanael “under the fig tree”? For the people of Israel, the fig tree was a symbol of God’s peace and blessing (1 Kings 4:24b-25, Micah 4:4). It provided shade from the midday sun and a cool refreshing place to retreat, pray, and reflect on God’s word. Rabbis often gathered their disciples under the shade of the fig to teach them the wisdom and revelation of God from the Scriptures. The rabbis had an expression for comparing the fig tree to being nourished with God’s word in Scripture, “He who tends the fig tree will eat its fruit.”
Jesus offers the greatest gift possible – peace and friendship with God
It is very likely that Nathanael had been thinking about God “under his fig tree” and reflecting on God’s promise in the Scriptures to send a Messiah King who would free his people from sin and oppression and usher in God’s kingdom of righteousness and peace for the whole world. Perhaps Nathanael dozed off for a midday nap and dreamt of God’s kingdom like Jacob had dreamt when God gave him a vision of a great ladder which united earth with heaven (see Genesis 28:12-17). Through the gift of revelation Nathanael recognized that Jesus was truly the Messiah, the everlasting “Son of God and King of Israel” (John 1:49). The Lord Jesus offered to Nathanael the greatest gift possible – the gift of friendship with God and free access to God’s throne in heaven.
Jesus promises that we will dwell with the living God
What does Jesus mean when he says “you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man”? One of the most remarkable revelations recorded in the bible is the dream of Jacob (Genesis 28:12-17). God had opened a door for Jacob that brought him and his people into a new relationship with the living God. In Jacob’s dream God revealed his angelic host and showed him the throne of heaven and promised Jacob that he and his descendants would dwell with the living God.
Jesus, the Son of God, unites earth and heaven in himself
Jesus’ response to Nathanael’s new faith is the promise that Jesus himself will be the “ladder which unites earth with heaven.” Jesus proclaims that he is the fulfillment of the promise made to the Patriarch Jacob and his descendants. Jesus is the true ladder or stairway to heaven. In Jesus’ incarnation, the divine Son of God taking on human flesh for our sake, we see the union of heaven and earth – God making his dwelling with us and bringing us into the heavenly reality of his kingdom through his Son Jesus Christ.
Jesus gives us free access to God’s presence
Jesus’ death on the cross, where he defeated sin and won new life for us through his resurrection, opens the way for each of us to come into a new relationship with God as his adopted sons and daughters. The Lord Jesus opens the way for each one of us to “ascend to heaven” and to bring “heaven to earth” in the daily circumstances of our lives. God’s kingdom is present in those who seek him and who strive to do his will. Through the gift of faith God opens a door for each one of us to the heavenly reality of his kingdom. Do you see with the “eyes of faith” what the Lord Jesus has done for us?
“Heavenly Father, through your Son Jesus Christ, you have opened the way to heaven for us. As you revealed yourself to your beloved patriarchs and apostles, so reveal yourself to me that I may recognize your presence with me and know the power of your kingdom at work in my life. May I always find joy in your presence and never lose sight of your kingdom.”