Reflection for the second Sunday after The Epiphany

Reading: John 1: 43-51

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 Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’ Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’
When Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you come to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.’ And he said to him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’

Reflection

Today’s gospel illustrates the importance of relationships within the Kingdom of God. At the very start of his ministry, Our Lord chose a small number of people who would be his close companions and confidantes to share in the work of proclaiming God’s Good News. In John’s telling of the story, John the Baptist identified Jesus as ‘the Lamb of God’ to two of his followers, who then followed Jesus. One of these was Andrew, who then introduced his brother Simon to the Lord. It was through them that Jesus encountered their neighbour, Philip (from their home town), and he in turn went to tell his friend Nathaniel about this remarkable man from Nazareth who had obviously impressed him greatly.

We know little else about Nathanael except for this first encounter with Jesus. Perhaps the people of Bethsaida all looked down their noses at Nazareth as a backwater and considered themselves superior to its inhabitants. Nathanael displayed his prejudice and scepticism when he asked Philip: ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ but Philip’s simple invitation led to a life-changing encounter for his friend when he said: ‘Come and see.’

Thus it was through family relationships, neighbours, and friends that this small group was formed as the disciples of Christ. They could not have imagined what lay ahead, although Nathanael was given a strong inkling when he was told that he would ‘see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man’ – a reference to the dream of Jacob’s ladder in Genesis 28. Together they would experience the power and presence of God as they journeyed with Jesus on his mission and later, that work would be entrusted to them after Our Lord’s resurrection and ascension.

The relationships between the 12 apostles were not always easy. Sometimes they argued among themselves as to who was the greatest. There was resentment when the mother of two, James and John, sought preferential treatment for her sons from Jesus. In this, they were like any family or community where tensions and rivalries arise at times which need to be resolved.

The community which our Lord established was commissioned by him to go out into the surrounding towns, cities and countryside to carry the message of his Kingdom and to make disciples of all nations. They established communities wherever they went and the church grew and developed. Although it is a worldwide movement, the Christian church is essentially a network of local faith communities. What binds them together is their common faith in Christ.

Relationships are all-important in building and sustaining faith communities. In our local churches, we have people whose family may have worshipped there for generations and others who have moved to the area and found a welcome. Some people have come because somebody invited them to a particular event and there was something that attracted them to come back and they have stayed. We can never underestimate the importance of inviting somebody, as Philip did to his friend Nathanael, and say: ‘Come and see’.

On Monday, the annual week of prayer for Christian Unity begins, when we are reminded of the importance of unity among the followers of Christ. Our Lord prayed for his disciples ‘that they may all be one’ (John 17:21). While we may not be able to gather together this year physically with other local Christian communities to worship, it is an opportunity to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ. The past divisions between churches in this country severely hindered the cause of the gospel, and we must not take for granted the unity that has developed in recent decades. Instead, we should value and nurture our ecumenical relationships so that they continue to be fruitful in the cause of the Kingdom of God.

Collect for the Second Sunday after Epiphany

Almighty God,
in Christ you make all things new:
Transform the poverty of our nature
by the riches of your grace,
and in the renewal of our lives
make known your heavenly glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Prayers of intercession
Lord, as you called the disciples
open our ears to your calling,
open our eyes to your presence,
open our hearts to your love,
that we may hear you, and hearing you, may love you,
and loving you may serve you,
whom to serve is perfect freedom;
through Jesus Christ, the lamb of God. Amen.

Prayers of Intercession

We pray for the unity of all Christian people, that we may be one. Strengthen the bonds of unity between our local churches that together we may witness to your love and truth. Bless all who lead our local faith communities; we pray for Father Paul Crosbie and Father Warren Collier in Trim, for Father Padraig McMahon in Athboy, Pastor Ciaran Loughran in the Living Hope Church and the communities they serve.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for our families and loved ones and all of our relationships. We remember all who are worried or anxious, those whose businesses or livelihoods are affected by the current pandemic, and those who are worried about the health of family members. We remember all schoolchildren who are learning at home and their teachers conducting classes online. We pray for parents working from home while caring for children and students and lecturers conducting courses online. Support all who are under stress and finding it difficult to cope.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for all who are working in our health service, caring for others. Protect them in their work and help them to cope with the heavy demands placed on them. We give thanks for the development of vaccines and pray for their effective delivery. We pray for all who are ill, in hospitals, nursing homes or at home. Grant them your strength and healing.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for the nations of the world and their leaders, remembering president elect Joe Biden in the United States as he prepares for his inauguration. Guide the incoming administration with your wisdom. We pray for the World Health Organisation, governments and health services as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and work to prevent the spread of the virus. We pray for a spirit of cooperation between nations and willingness to follow health guidelines.

Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
and the love of God
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit
be with us all evermore. Amen.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.