FR MICHAEL BIBLICAL IMAGERY
(Fr Michael Boakye Yeboah: Vice Rector of St Gregory Seminary, Kumasi-Ghana)
SIR! CAN WE SEE JESUS?
The inspired writer tells us that some Gentiles came to Philip with the request to see Jesus. The inspired writer does not dig deep to know their intention for the request but only tells us that Philip went to see Andrew on the issue and together they brought the request to Jesus. Whether Jesus accepted their request or not we are not told but what interests me is their desire to see Jesus. Throughout the ministry of Jesus, some Gentiles made great efforts to have a share in the blessings that came with the ministry of Jesus. You remember the Syrophoenician woman who in placing her request to Jesus was virtually insulted but persisted to receive what she came for?
In our Christian way of life, we need to demonstrate a strong desire and willingness for Jesus; for that desire and willingness always comes with rewards and blessings. Today Jesus has become totally accessible to the extent that one does not need a middle man to help him. One does not need a certain “Philip” or “Andrew” to give him/her permission to see Jesus. I haven’t seen any Catholic Church with a notice on those who can enter to see Jesus or those who cannot enter. It is therefore left to us to go to him and converse with him. Do you know that he has been waiting for you in the chapel near your home or neighborhood to have a chat with you?
When you come to Jesus, you must be ready to accept the statement he made for himself: “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.” In a way his response to those who had requested to see him was: ‘Are you ready to abandon your old life to have a fruitful life in me?’ One cannot live in Jesus and have a double life. One should be ready to put to “death” his old life like a grain that falls to the ground and dies. It is in dying with Christ on Good Friday, that the believer will rise with him on Easter Sunday. In Christian theology, this is known as kenosis.
Jesus is inviting us to abandon our “material life” in order to enhance our spiritual life in him. The truth is that life is of two kinds. We have physical or material life and we have spiritual life. The latter is superior to the former because it is the one that we share with God, while physical or material life is the one we have in common with the animals, plants and other lower forms of living things. It is our spiritual life that makes us properly human and the image and likeness of God that we were created to be. Physical and material life can be referred to as the life of the flesh, while spiritual life can be called the life of the spirit.
Experience has shown that the two forms of life pull in opposite directions. The biblical explanation for that is that it is the result of sin, the sin of our first parents. After the sin of Adam and Eve, the flesh rebelled against the spirit, and was no longer docile to the spirit. As a result, the flesh is always wanting to go in the opposite direction to where the spirit is going. While the flesh is earth-bound, the spirit is heaven-bound. If we indulge our flesh (“love” our physical life), and allow it to go where it wants to go, our spirit will be dragged along with it. Both will remain on earth, where life is transitory. As a result, the human person will not rise to heaven, where he will enjoy eternal life. If, on the contrary, we discipline our flesh (“hate” our physical life) and bring it under the firm control of the spirit, both will be drawn towards the life of heaven even while still here on earth.
No one has ever achieved greatness in any endeavour – be it science, art, or even sports – without subjecting the body to strict discipline. That discipline is what Christian Tradition has called mortification, self-denial, carrying the cross. We must mortify ourselves, deny ourselves, carry the cross and follow Jesus if we truly wish to see Jesus as those Gentiles wished. Indirectly Jesus told Philip and Andrew, tell those who wish to see me if they are ready to abide by my ways. May the discipline of Lent prepare us for a total life in Jesus.