Living the vocation as “the messenger”

Introduction: in this text of John 1:46-50, Nathanael comes to the scene. Philip found him after meeting and talking to Jesus, he was already living his vocation as an apostle “the messenger”, preaching and talking about Jesus to his friend Nathanael and inviting him to “come and see” the Messiah, to come and see  him by his own eyes. Meeting the Messiah was such a joyful and unforgettable experience that Phillip wanted Nathanael to experience it himself. Was Nathanael ready for that encounter? This text tells us a bit of the relationship between Jesus and Nathanael. What would have they thought of each other? 

Initial Prayer
Lord God, 

Give me the grace to know the person of

your Son Jesus, his vision and his mission 

so that I may commit myself entirely to him 

and your plan of Salvation.


‘Lectio Divina’

  1. Read the Gospel of John 1:46-50; read the text slowly and listen attentively with the ‘ear of your heart’. What word, sentence or phrase stands out for you? 
  1. Reflect: read the text again and pay attention of what touches you; why is it meaningful for you. What thought or reflection comes to you. 
  1. Respond: read the text again but this time respond spontaneously to the word of God. In other words, make a dialogue with God what comes from within you. What gift does this text lead me to ask for from the Lord?  
  1. Stay with the Word: read the text a final time and rest in the word. Allow God to speak to you in deep silence. Don’t say anything just listen to God’s words. What is He saying? 
  1. Take now the word, sentence or phase, into your daily life/activity; allow it to become part of you. Always listen to it, reflect on it, pray over it and rest on it as time allows during the day. Then allow the Word lead you action. 

Concluding your ‘Lectio Divina’ with the ‘Our Father’…  

Reflection:  when Nathanael heard that Jesus was from Nazareth that very scene of the text seemed to freeze at the cry of disapproval “from Nazareth? Can anything good come form that place? ” As a devout Jew, Nathanael he could no hide his prejudice towards small and insignificant people and places. But otherwise he could not resist the invitation of meeting Jesus from the joyful and convinced new apostle Philip. 


Central Message: …”From Nazareth?’ said Nathanael ‘Can anything good come form that place?’ ‘Come and see’ replied Philip. Jesus saw Nathanael coming he said of him, ‘There is an Israelite who deserves the name, incapable of deceit’. ‘How do you know me? said Nathanael. ‘Before Philip came to call you,’ said Jesus ‘I saw you under the fig tree.’ Nathanael answer, Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel’. Jesus replied, ‘You believe that just because I said: I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that’. 

Main points: 

a) “From Nazareth? said Nathanael ‘Can anything good come form that place? (v46). Nathanael being a knowledgeable and well verse Jew in scriptures shows scepticism about the place of origin of Jesus, the Messiah, found by Philip. Nathanael, Like many other Jews learned where the Messiah should come from, how would he come, what would he do etc. The description Phillip gave of the Messiah was completely alien and simplistic for Nathanael because he would expect the spectacular a great political or military leader, a great judge from a famous and great city, but above all a superhuman being, not a God. From Nazareth? What good can come from a tiny and insignificant place? Mary and Joseph came from Nazareth, two insignificant people but important instruments to bring the salvation (Jesus) to the world. God chooses those who by human standards are common…and count for nothing…(cfr. 1 Co 1:27-28). Mary taught us in her canticle that God can make ‘great things’ from what is considered by humans ‘insignificant’ (cfr. see Luke 1:46-55). 


b)Jesus saw Nathanaeland said of him there is an Israelite who deserves the name, incapable of deceit”…(47) So sfter all, Philip convinced Nathanael to meet Jesu not for the facts pointed out by him but because of his enthusiasm and explosive joy manifested after his encounter with Jesus. It was a contagious joy, ‘come and see’ ‘come and taste’ (Ps 34:8) said Philip. And off they went. Before meeting Nathanael, ‘Jesus saw him under a fig tree’ (as if Jesus had taken a photo of Nathanael). We look at this scene as: a) the place or the seat for someone waiting for something to happen. He was there like a good and honest Jew who usually would be seating under a fig tree praying and even teaching about the coming of the Messiah.  b) A self-protective and defensive place, where Nathanael felt secure but enclose in himself and close to the outside world, not open to learn from others but believing only his own truth. 

In biblical terms the actions of Jesus of seeing/looking/gazing at someone is interpreted as ‘he loves and chooses’ to be his disciple. We can say here that Jesus had already chosen Nathanael at the time he saw him under the fig tree. Nathanael probably gave a glance at Jesus but his glance was not of love but indifference and prejudice, he did not notice who he was, he was not paying much attention to his surroundings and the passers-by. He was just concentrated in his own thing. But Jesus in one single gaze he knew him inside out that is why he described him as a Jew incapable of deceit. Nathanael was shocked for such a truth from whom he never knew. His companions called him, as a pet name, “the man with no duplicity”. In the Gospel of Mathew he is also known as Bartholomew. 

c) ”Rabbi you are the Son of God, you are the King of Isreael”…Philip was the instrument to bring Nathanael to Jesus and the moment they both met his eyes, his mind  and his heart were wide opened recognising Jesus and making his profession of faith:  ‘Master you are the Son of God’. He found whom he was waiting for, the Messiah. In a sense, he abandoned the shade of the fig tree, his insecurities and his self-referring to reach out to others and to live in freedom and openness to the Truth, Jesus Christ. He never turned back to the shade of the fig tree but turned out to the Light and remained in it and with it to be sent out and be a light to the world as a disciple of Jesus. 

Some questions for our reflexion:

  1. What impact did it make in you when you encountered, Jesus, the Master? 
  1. What are the shades of my life that impede my openness and freedom to reach out to others and God? 

"Lectio Divina", a Latin term, means "divine reading" and describes a way of reading the Scriptures. Open ourselves to what God wants to say to us.

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Father Rubén Padilla Rocha