January 5, 2006, Thursday after Epiphany
1 John 3:11-21, John 1:43-51
“I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
Years ago, I watched one of these movies shown during the holy week. These are the long movies of the Ten Commandments, the creation of the world, the New Testament stories, and those movies where you are forced to watch because there is nothing else to watch. I distinctly remember this scene from one of those movies.
A man was dressed in what looked like a rabbi’s white tunic sitting down under a tree. It was set in Palestine where people plant a fig tree in front of their houses for some shade. He was reading a scroll nestled on top of his lap. He was praying. At a certain moment, he looked up to the sky and saw the sun’s ray behind the leaves that were dancing. His face was a face of man enlightened, as if new wisdom was shared to him. He smiled and continued to read and pray.
That was Nathanael under the fig tree.
I saw you under the fig tree.
As I went home last December, I knew I was in for a surprise. Most of my friends told me of the new gimik places in the city. The new adventure Cagya-anons are discovering. As soon as I settled myself in Loyola House in XU, I went around the main plaza we call DVsoria. I found myself surrounded by dazzling lights. There were different kinds of cafés littered around the vicinity. It was past 11 pm and the evening creatures started to come out from their holes. Yuppies my age and more young people were still on the street, to think that it was Monday evening. I could still mange to point out the old buildings, the familiar streets, the convenience stores, but there was a different feeling. Everything seemed familiar, looked familiar, and sounded familiar, but there was a little feeling of being lost, being not anymore part of it.
Many times, we feel relieved when we feel that we are understood. When we feel that, someone really knows us and we do not have to explain ourselves well. However, there are also instances when we do not allow others to know us. We just block off ourselves from others without any significant reasons at all. We just do not want to and that is that. Scary thing is we even could do this with our relationship with our Lord. Blocking ourselves from him.
I remember what Fr. Bill McGary said in his homily during the 30-day retreat. He was talking about how easily we could tear God away from the picture, about how we can ask him to just stay in his Church, stay in the tabernacle. Like, Lord we’ll give you the most expensive silk clothes for your altar, but don’t mess up with our lives. You stay there. How easy it is to just shut-off our Lord from ourselves.
Nathanael (aka Bartholomeow) in that scene under the fig tree teaches us that we not only should be familiar with God, but we let God be familiar to us by letting ourselves be known by Him. By making him a part of our daily lives. By not shutting him off from the daily grind. Nathanael’s face in that movie depicted someone who knows who he was talking to and someone who understood him as well. We can deduce that Jesus did saw Nathanael under the fig tree and saw how he had no guile in him as they conversed.
In the first reading, we hear St. John exhorting to the small Christian communities of how they should love one another. That love should not pass only through words and tongue, but in actions and in truth. And this can only be achieved when we know and is familiar with the one we are following. Nathanael’s bold declaration that Jesus is the Son of Man could come only from a person who feels that he is understood. A person whom he knows and who knows him as well.
The challenge Jesus gave to Philip, follow me, is the same challenge we receive today. To follow the Lord is to know him and to ourselves familiar to him as well. And in doing so we allow ourselves to act on the kind of love he teaches us. However, if we continue to go on with our lives without allowing ourselves to be known by the one person we are following, there might come a time when begin to not know anymore whom we are following.
Finally, I reiterate the challenge that is given to us by the two readings for this morning. That we allow ourselves to be known by Our Lord, that in so doing, we may be able to follow him more and love him more.