Saturday, 9 May 2020

Faith in difficult times

I forget from where we were returning but there we were, Michela and I at the luggage carousel in Heathrow.  Now Michela was young successful and one of my brightest people , she had a taste for the good life, arts, culture, good restaurants and Cava: suddenly into the tedium of waiting for bags she said, “I wish I had your faith.” I looked at my watch - as if to say - we have not been waiting all that long you know - but then looking at her  I deduced that she was not anxious about her Louis Vitton but was worried about why she did not or could not believe in God while I did. What I have remembered about her remark is that sentiment “I wish.”  It is an odd construction to my mind for if it were something really wished for surely there is no impediment to just believing, or is there?

We meet Philip almost exclusively through St. John’s Gospel. His calling is recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke but no more is he mentioned by them. The advantage of this is that we have a consistent account of Philip’s life with Jesus. It begins in chapter one “The next day, Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathaniel and said to him “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and the prophets wrote: Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”   Philip took Nathaniel to Jesus.

Philip was there at the feeding of the five thousand, indeed Jesus asked Philip the question “Philip, where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” he said this to test him for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him “Six month’s wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” Philip helped gather up the fragments of left over bread into twelve baskets.”

In chapter twelve we find Philip once again helping people find Jesus. “Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. “They came to Philip who was from Bethsaida in Galilee and said to him ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’  Philip went and told Andrew, then Andrew went and told Jesus. “ Philip brought Gentiles to Jesus.”

And yet after all this witness we then come to today’s reading which takes place very shortly before the final Passover meal so some three years of following Jesus behind him:

“Lord, show us the Father and we will be satisfied”

No wonder there seems a tone of exasperation in Jesus’ voice: “Have I been with you all this time Philip and you still do not know me?” 

In recent days I have spoken to people who have found their “faith” shaken by recent events. This is way deeper than Michela musing over the luggage. In the face of plague, and surely this is the right word, in the face of so many bad things we might choose to hold up in support of doubt or disbelief it is unsurprising. What to say in the face of such disaster?

Well I want to offer two things - firstly I remain convinced of God’s love for us and in those gifts of inventiveness and creativity given us. I know that the minds we have been given are from God and are capable beyond all our expectations and they will be purposely turned to the searches for prevention, treatment and cure of this virus and I can trust in these things.

And secondly that Philip’s doubt and search for proof, is an encouragement to us. If Philip, who was with Jesus, who experienced all that can still say “BUT only show us the father and we will believe” then let us not be too hard on ourselves when in the face of adversity we may be cross and wavering.

Amen

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