Catholic Homily / Sunday Reflections / Sunday Worship Guide

5th Sunday of Lent(B)
March 29, 2009

Readings: Jer 31:31-34 / Heb 5:7-9 /Jn 12:20-33

The apostle Philip must have exuded some kind of inner resourcefulness that gave people around him the impression he could lead them to things or persons they were looking for. Today, we are told that some Greeks approached him asking for advice on where to find Jesus, saying to him, “We would like to see Jesus.” The same resourceful Philip, we are told elsewhere, was the one whom the Lord asked, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” (Jn 6:5) Philip, as practical as he was resourceful, had a ready answer: “Two hundred days wages would not be enough for each of them to have a little bit.” It turned out, however, that Andrew the fisherman, who had a quick eye for opportunity, was the one who “discovered” that there was a young man who had a few loaves and some fish with him.

I have a couple of curious insights in today’s Gospel passage, by way of an aside, before we get back to Philip. Andrew, the brother of Peter, was a fisherman like his father and brother. A recent Biblical scholar has suggested that the fishermen during the times of Jesus are the equivalent of modern-day small scale entrepreneurs who had enough business acumen to keep a relatively complex business going. That included tending a boat and mending nets, apart from managing the catch. I do not know, but one who notices details like who was carrying what in the desert crowd, one who saw “opportunity” in the small “capital” of the young man must have been a very good logistics officer and a good businessman more than he was a good fisherman. Philip and Andrew must have made quite a complementary pair among the band of twelve!

The other curious insight has to do with the boy and his hearty appetite. He had five barley loaves and two fish! Now these loaves must have been bigger than McDonald’s Filet-o-fish sandwich! We are not told whether he carried the food for his parents or for somebody else, but presumably, since no mention is made of adults journeying with him, the boy had the five loaves and – mind you, whole fishes, not just fillets – all for himself! But the boy’s generous heart was just as big as his appetite! He gave the loaves and the fish away! And that generosity sparked a miracle beyond his wildest dreams!

I would like to suggest that the good Lord indeed knew how best to make use of the people willing enough to follow him. He knew how to capitalize on the good points of all those from whom he asked only one simple thing: COME, FOLLOW ME AND BE FISHERS OF PEOPLE! The Lord did not ask whether Peter and Andrew had enough money to support his incipient project and vision to give fullness of life to all. He simply called them. All he wanted was plain generosity and willingness to stay with his incipient group. But Jesus made use of Peter’s impetuosity. Jesus made use of Philip’s social skills and resourcefulness with people. And the Lord definitely made use of Andrew’s eye for details and opportunities.

I further suggest that all of us, like the Greeks who approached Philip, are in the final analysis people out in search for the Lord. Behind every desire we feel in our hearts, behind our every wish to have a better life, at the bottom of all the good things we want for ourselves and others, is our innate and ultimate desire to see and taste the goodness of the Lord! We not only want to see the Lord. We want the Lord to fully satisfy all the longings of our hearts, knowing full well that any earthly longing we have is bound to disappoint us, sure that not one earthly fulfillment of what we longed for can fully satisfy us. With St. Augustine, we know by experience: “Restless are our hearts, O Lord, and restless will they remain, until they rest in Thee.”

We would like to see Jesus! Two thousand years have passed since the Greeks first asked that most important question from Philip. Philip was one of the band of twelve, close-in followers of the Lord, the twelve apostles. Philip, together with the rest of the apostles became the link between Jesus and the rest of the people they ministered to, including the then known as gentiles. The apostles did as Jesus did, preached as Jesus preached, healed as Jesus healed and saved as Jesus did.

Today, we still beg the Church and her pastors, “we would like to see Jesus.” This indeed is a humbling thought for me, an ordained minister, a priest of Jesus Christ! People are beseeching us and the Church pastors to show them, give them, lead them to Jesus. Indeed, this is a great responsibility. Not one of us feels up to the task. Not one of us feels worthy of the duty. Nay more, together with them, we also utter the same basic cry from within the depths of our personhood…”We would like to see Jesus.”

The plea is a lot different from that of the very same Philip who asked: “Show us the Father!” Philip said to him, "Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us." (Jn 14:8) The resourceful Philip, the sociable Philip, was also a searcher. He was always looking for something or someone. He was always seeking out things for himself and others. And “he who seeks, indeed finds.” (cf. Mt. 7:8) “Philip, have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me! He who sees me sees my Father also.” (Jn 14:9)

As an observer of human behavior, I would like to suggest that people flocked to Philip and sought his advice because Philip was true to himself. He showed himself to be also a searcher. People saw in Philip a person who made no secrets about the deep desires in his heart. Philip stood for all of us who basically are all searchers and seekers.

The Greeks had Philip to consult. They did so and were happy for it. We also have the Church and her pastors to look up to. We were so blessed to have had Pope John Paul II in our midst, who inflamed our hearts with desire to see the Lord. Old as he was then, his desires were really youthful and relevant – to bring Jesus to young people, to everyone, to all the world! Together with him and the present Holy Father Benedict XVI are thousands and thousands of bishops and priests and religious women and men in good standing who continue what Philip once did, to be vocation promoters and product endorsers for the Church and the Kingdom. Despite the many scandals caused by a few in their ranks, the vast majority are dedicated to the cause of the Kingdom. The great majority are hard at work, trying to tell so many people, young and old alike, “Come and see!” (Jn 11:34) Among them, there are so many equivalent of that generous boy who was instrumental for that miracle of generosity. There, too, are so many equivalents of Andrew whose eyes for opportunities continue to serve the best interest of the Church and her mission of salvation. There, too, are so many equivalents of Philip whose social skills and connections, whose attitude of perpetual search, keep the wheels of evangelization grinding in so many parts of the world.

We would like to see Jesus! What about transforming that desire into dedicated action? What about being part of the Church’s “search and rescue” team? What about joining her hordes of missionaries who go out and search – not to destroy – but to give life? “I came that they may have life and have it more abundantly!” That was the mission-vision of the leader who started the incipient band of twelve of which Philip was a part. It has become a big worldwide movement that has transcended history and civilizations down through the centuries. It is fueled by the same desire that led the Greeks to Philip: “We would like to see Jesus.”

Last thing I heard is… a band of excited disciples has been telling the whole world for two thousand years… “We have seen the Lord!” VIDIMUS DOMINUM. (Jn. 20:25)