Today’s Gospel reading is always a personal challenge because Jesus responds to Philip’s request to see the Father with a pointed question: “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip?” No matter how close I may be to Jesus, the relationship can always go a bit deeper.
Having a relationship with Jesus helps us understand, I think, some of the remarkable things that Jesus promises towards the end of our Gospel reading: “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. Amen, amen , I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do and will do greater ones than these because I am going to the Father. And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (italics mine).
How is it possible for us to do greater works than what Jesus did? For me, I have understood this saying of Jesus in the context of what He did on earth outside of the great act of redemption for us. For instance, He did not go outside of Judea or Samaria, but His followers have. He reached thousands, but His followers have reached millions. Saints throughout the history of the Church have worked miracles, as He did, in the lives of people. But all this has been done in His name! Not in our own name; not by our own power! It is possible to do great things in Him!
If we have a relationship with Jesus, that will have an effect on what we ask of Him. Can I really ask for the destruction of my enemies in the name of the One who told us to love them? Can I really ask for material wealth in the name of the One who told us, “Blessed are the poor in spirit?” Can I really ask to always have things my way in the name of the One who said, “Not my will, but yours be done?”
But we can ask for guidance about how to deal with a difficult person, or how to persevere in times of crisis. We can ask for the grace and the ability to do what is needed, even when it may seem impossible. These are the kind of things I believe Jesus is talking about.
The more we get to know Jesus, the more we understand what is really important, and what is really possible.
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P., is the local superior at St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Community in Detroit, Michigan.