Philip in the beginning of Jesus’s ministry tells Nathaniel: “come and see” Jesus! The first step of religion or of a meaningful relationship with the Lord is to meet Him! This fact is so obvious in the Gospels that it can easily be missed. It is expressed by a plethora of words and expressions. Just one word “to come near” (pros-erxomai in Greek NT) alone is used for approaching Jesus 29 times in Matthew.
In today’s Gospel Nathaniel becomes a lifelong follower of Jesus only after experiencing His word and presence. He needed to be brought face to face with the living Christ. We see a frequent pattern in the Scriptures of encounters with the Lord. A beautiful example is found in Mt 28:9 “And behold, Jesus met (Greek NT upo+anti up close) them (women) and greeted them. And they came up and took a strong hold of His feet and worshiped Him.” Mt 28:9
The experience of meeting Jesus must begin with Him making the first move. In the post resurrection appearances, no one sees Jesus unless He first shows Himself. So, we see in Mt 28 Jesus first “meets” (upo+anti up close) the women. It is only then that they approach (pros-erxomai) and throw their arms around His feet, so He won’t get away! In prayer we must be humble and realize we are way out of our ability to contact Jesus by our own power.
The Cure of Ars beautifully comments: “My little children, your hearts are small, but prayer stretches them and makes them capable of loving God.” To touch the Living Christ is the biggest stretch of our lives! How many people have experienced not only is it hard to pray but it is impossible to do so without Himself revealing His presence?
How often in Scripture the Psalmist begs God: “Do not hide Your face from me,Ps 27:9 “You hid Your face, I was dismayed” Ps 30:7 The face of God was a beautiful expression for the presence of God. God is the deciding factor whether we can meet Him in prayer or not! In the Divine Office we wisely begin by saying: “Open my mouth and (then) I shall declare thy praise!”
Fr. Bob Weiss, C.P. preaches Parish Missions and is a member of the Passionist Community in Louisville, Kentucky.