Revealing the face of God

| December 16, 2010
Archbishop Nienstedt

Archbishop John C. Nienstedt

In the context of the Last Supper in the 14th chapter of St. John’s Gospel, St. Philip says to Jesus: “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

This was, at first glance, a rather reasonable request. As human beings, we often contend that “seeing is believing.” We want proof, concrete proof, so as to verify the truth of the matter at hand.

Yet, Jesus’ response to Philip points to a kind of knowing, a verifiability if you will, on a completely different level: “Philip, after I have been with you all this time, you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father . . . .  Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?” (John 14:9-10).

With these words, Jesus challenges Philip to a life of faith. Faith is a way of seeing and of knowing that is based on the reality of a personal relationship — it is proven by the experience of knowing and loving someone so well that no further proof is required.

Ask children if their parents love them and they, in all likelihood, will say “yes.” But ask them to prove it and they would be perplexed in responding, “Well, I just know that they do.”

Word became flesh

How do we really know God exists? After all, we cannot see or touch him. God, by very definition, is a being who lies beyond our comprehension or even our imagination.

But, like Philip, we learn that God can be known in Jesus and in his Body, the Church. Therefore, as Pope Benedict XVI states so frequently, Jesus reveals the face of God to us.

This, then, is the meaning of the Incarnation: “That the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  And we saw his glory, the glory of an only Son coming from the Father, filled with enduring love” (John 1:14).

Last month during his apostolic visit to Spain, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, referred to the fact that in 19th-century Europe, the conviction grew throughout society that somehow God is antagonistic to mankind and an enemy of human freedom.

There had been, the pope said, an attempt to obscure the truth that God sent Jesus into the world so that no one would perish but that all might have eternal life  (John 3:16).

At that point in his presentation, the Holy Father asked a penetrating question: “How is it then that God who is the light of every mind, the power of every will and the magnet of every heart, be denied the right to propose the light that dissipates all darkness?”

And then he added, “Europe must open itself to God, it must come to meet him without fear, and work with his grace for that human dignity which was discerned by her best traditions. . . .”

Mary’s example

It seems to me that the pope’s message needs to be heard in our own country as well. So many of our brothers and sisters here in the United States of America have closed themselves off to God who reveals himself in Jesus Christ and in his teachings. There is a great need, therefore, for men and women to have a personal experience with the presence of Jesus Christ.

In addition, the mystery of the Incar­nation calls for our human participation and cooperation in this process of the Word becoming flesh.

As Jesus reveals the face of God to us, we in turn reveal Jesus to others by the witness of our lives.  In doing so, we have, as our model to follow, Mary, the Mother of the Divine Word, who consciously permitted God to use her in presenting Jesus to the world.

When we pray to her with Advent hope, we are asking Mary to show us how to be generous in responding to the Father’s will in making Jesus known and loved by the men and women with whom we associate.

No other human being knew Jesus as well as Mary did. When we get close to her, we become, by necessity, close to him. And that, too, is a part of what the mystery of the Incarnation offers.

I hope you have time to meditate on this great mystery of the Incarnation as we approach the feast of Christmas. There is much in this teaching that will not only console you but challenge your growth in faith as well.

God love you!

Category: Only Jesus

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