More years ago than I care to remember I went on a study visit to Greece. On a student grant, I had to travel simply and used small, local restaurants. Often, these did not have a menu; instead, the host would greet us with cries of “come and see!”, drawing us into the kitchen to look at what was on offer for that evening and delighting in encouraging us to sample the cooking.
The gospel reading for this second Sunday of Epiphany reminded me of that student experience of welcome, invitation and participation. Having himself received the call to follow Jesus, the disciple Philip goes off to find his friend Nathanael, a Jew who knows his Scripture and is well-grounded in the assumptions of his faith. Philip urges Nathanael to come and see Jesus, to meet him and experience for himself what Jesus has to say. Nathanael (somewhat reluctantly, one feels) comes to see, and experiences for himself the wonder of being deeply known and wholeheartedly welcomed by Jesus. We read this story in Epiphany season because it illustrates so well the sudden, surprising revelation of the mystery of God who knows us intimately and is immediately present to us and with us in Christ in the ordinary and everyday, God who invites us personally to him and promises us not the earth, but heaven.
I wonder, when are we like the Nathanael who was constrained by his own expectations and assumptions of faith, and not wanting to step outside our self-imposed boundaries? How are we like the Nathanael who took the risk of entering as a stranger tasting for himself, and found himself invited into the whole feast as a friend? And how much are we like Philip, whose response to being called by Jesus was to rush off and urge his friend to come and see for himself, to invite others to discover the wonder of Christ?
I took a lot of photos on that study trip, back in the days when photo film had to be developed and printed. I think Nathanael is a bit like a photo: his God-made image was always there, but its potential was only fulfilled when it was developed by exposure to the Christ-light. How many more undeveloped images are just waiting to be invited into that light?
Image – public domain use from PxHere, attributed to STAFFAGE Karolina Grabowska