Seeing the Father
Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father. - Jesus in John 14:9
An astounding thing happened in the Liturgy this past week, and because the Liturgy inserts us into the truest reality, we can say that an astounding thing happened in Real Life. Jesus has a message He desperately wants us to hear, and He is not holding back in repeating it, for in the course of just five days of the Divine Office and the Mass, Our Savior told us seven times His words to Philip at the Last Supper, "Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father."
His urgent repetitions began on May 3, feast of Saints Philip and James, when to my surprise and delight I found this verse placed by the Church into our mouths and ears no less than five times in the course of that single day!
Beginning in the Liturgy of the Hours with the second antiphon for the psalms at Morning Prayer, Our Lord told us, "Whoever sees Me, sees My Father also." Next, in the Alleluia verse before the gospel at Holy Mass, He proclaimed, "Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father." Then in the gospel reading itself, from St. John's chapter 14, after Philip says, "Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us," Jesus responds, "Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know Me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father?' Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me?" And as if this were not enough to convey His meaning to us in the Mass, again we heard at the Communion Antiphon, "Whoever has seen Me, Philip, has seen the Father also." And finally, I was bowled over when yet again at Evening Prayer the first antiphon restated, "Philip, whoever sees Me sees My Father also."
Wowie zowie! Jesus really wants us to get this message!
But wait! There's more!
This past Saturday, May 6, the gospel for the 4th week of Easter was taken again from St. John's chapter 14, and again Jesus asserted, "Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father."
And finally, for Sunday of the 5th week of Easter, the Church began at the opening of John's chapter 14 with those marvelous and ever consoling words from the Spouse of our souls:
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in Me. In My Father's house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to Myself, that where I am you also may be."
Ah, so good to hear! But I wondered . . . will He really say it yet again, this verse so dear to His Heart? And sure enough, right as rain, as if He couldn't repeat these words enough - for now it was the 7th time, the fullness of speech, one might say - the gospel passage continued on to the now very familiar teaching. First, "If you know Me, you will also know My Father," and then in answer to Philip's question, "Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father."
In the homily at that Mass, our good priest focused in part on the words of Jesus' disciples in the Acts of the Apostles, "It is not right for us to neglect the word of God . . . "
This made me realize that I'd better pay attention to what Jesus was saying - saying 7 times for the benefit of those forgetful ones among us. Marcel is always forgetting things that Jesus told him in their Conversations; hence my nickname, Miss Marcel. And I have been, with Marcel, musing, trying to figure out what Jesus is so urgently wanting us to know this Easter season, so important is it that He can't stop saying it to us, as if to be sure we don't forget this particular and urgently needed truth.
I think our sister St. Therese can help us a great deal here. She knew Jesus well and knows Him even better now! If seeing Him means seeing the Father, if having come to know Him, we now know the Father, it makes sense to me to ask, and to ask her, a Doctor of the Church and one who promised to shower roses upon us from Heaven: Just what is the Father like?
Therese said in her Last Conversations, "The Gospels are enough. I listen with delight to these words of Jesus which tell me all I must do: 'Learn of Me for I am meek and humble of heart'; then I'm at peace, according to His sweet promise: 'and you will find rest for your little souls.'"
We don't usually think of the Father as meek and humble of Heart, and yet Jesus is adamant that when we see Him (Jesus), we see the Father . . . We are so likely to think of Jesus as the gentle one, and the Father as the harsh one . . . or at least we might be thinking that Jesus is merciful, while the Father is our severe Judge. Oh, but how wrong we would be to ever think of the Father as severe! And that is why Jesus wants so badly for us always to see the Father in Him, to know that the Father and He are one, and just as Jesus wants aching mankind to snuggle close to His merciful Heart, as He told St. Faustina, so to does the Father want us to snuggle close to Himself!
In Marcel's Autobiography, he tells us of his first meeting with St. Therese, and he goes on for pages (thanks be to God!) recounting her teaching to him on that day in October, 1941. The majority of her words focus on God as our Father, because she wants Marcel to understand how tender and loving, how merciful and approachable God really is.
Since we, like Marcel, are her little sisters and brothers, she is extremely glad to share her doctrine with us too and provide a commentary on Jesus' words, "Whoever sees Me sees the Father." Her words here don't explicate the deep mysteries of the Blessed Trinity so much as they show us what and Who we are seeing when we see the Father. In her words I find the Father recognizable because He is so much like the Son. Although we would typically say a son is like his father, and perhaps theologically we ought to say the Son is like the Father, still we are taking our lead from Jesus. He tells us in this teaching so dear to His Heart, in this discourse of His last words the night before He suffered and died for us, "You know Me! That means you now know the Father!"
If we look at Jesus, we will see the Father. So what do we see when we look at Jesus? Gentleness, tenderness, meekness, humility, kindness, compassion, patience, forbearance, LOVE! And utter approachability - for someone who has known Him, like the beloved disciple John, the favorite posture is to lean on Christ's breast, to be as close to Him as possible, or like the women who met Him on Easter, to embrace Him. So too this should be our favored posture with the Father!
But Therese has already explained all this quite beautifully and convincingly to Marcel and us in words much more compelling than mine. She, like Jesus, loves this name, "Father," and she wants us to love it too. Here is what she told our little brother about God when she began to instruct him (these paragraphs and those which follow begin at (598) in Marcel's Autobiography):
"My dear little brother, you see God is our Father. But because man, poor sinner, dominated by fear, dared no longer to give to God the name of Father, God Himself lowered Himself in becoming man, to remind His human brothers of the existence of a source of grace that the love of God had made to gush forth, and which would continue to flow unendingly. So from His own mouth He has taught us to give Him the name of Father.
"Yes, God is our Father, our true Father, a very real Father . . . To be God's children is for us an incomparable happiness. We are right to be proud of it and never to give way to an excessive fear.
"God is our beloved Father! O dear little brother! I wish to remind you unceasingly of this so-sweet name. I am asking you to make sure from now onwards always to keep the memory of this name of Love, and never to adopt a worried air or a fearful attitude in the presence of this Love which is infinitely paternal! Yes, remember always that God is Father, that He has filled you with graces, that He has never refused to answer your smallest wishes, and that very often He has granted more than you wished for. Truly, everything proclaims the goodness and the power of God, and He only uses this power to show the kindness of His Heart toward His creatures."
Yes, this is the ticket! Jesus came to show us this Love of God the Father that flows forth unendingly, and to make sure we know that God is the most loving of Fathers. When we, like Philip, ask Him to finally show us the Father, He says, "But I have! He is all that you see in Me - power, yes, but entirely at the service of goodness! Do not be afraid! I tell you not to be afraid of Me, but also do not be afraid of Him, our Father, for He is Love, as I have shown you I am and will show you on the cross: We are Love!"
Therese continues in the same vein of precious Truth:
"Never fear God. He is the all-loving Father. He knows only how to love, and He wishes to be loved in return. He thirsts for our poor little hearts which come from His creative hands."
Remember when Jesus said, "I thirst," from the cross? We were seeing the Face of the Father too and hearing the Father's voice crying out through His Word about His thirst for our love! When we see the Son there, giving all for us, we are seeing the Father giving all for us too.
And how shall we return love for Love? How shall we satiate the Father's thirst, as well as the Son's? Here is where Therese shines. The simplicity of a child is hers, and she urges us to make it our own, painstakingly but gladly telling us:
"Offer all of your little heart to God. Be sincere with Him in all circumstances and in all your points of view. When you feel joy, offer Him this joy which swells your heart and, by so doing, you will transmit your joy to Him. Can there be a greater happiness than a couple loving one another and exchanging all they possess? To act in this way with God is to say thank you to Him, which pleases Him more than thousands of touching canticles. If, on the other hand, you are invaded by sadness, say to Him again with an honest heart: 'O my God, I am really unhappy!' And ask Him to help you to accept this sadness with patience. Really believe this: nothing gives as much pleasure to the good God than to see on this earth a heart which loves Him, who is sincere with Him with each step, with each smile, as well with tears as with little momentary pleasures . . . So when you speak to the good God, do so quite naturally as if you were talking to those around you. You can speak to Him of anything you wish . . . of climbing the mountain, the teasing of your friends, and if you become angry with anyone, tell it also to the good God in all honesty. God takes pleasure in listening to you; in fact He thirsts to hear these little stories with which people are too sparing with Him. They can spend hours telling these amusing stories to their friends, but when it's a question of the good God who longs to hear such stories to the point of being able to shed tears, there is no one to tell Him about them. From now on, little brother, don't be miserly with your stories to the good God. All right?" And then Therese laughed!
Yes, we are miserly, precisely because we are still afraid of the Father and don't know that He longs for us as we know the Son longs for us. But since we have seen and understood this longing and thirst in the Son, then He wants us to know that we have seen and known it in the Father also. We do not need to be afraid of God the Father any more, nor anymore than we should be afraid of God the Son! They are mercy and love!
But we, like Marcel, know the basics of the catechism, and so we know that God is omniscient. He knows everything already! And so, with Marcel we can ask our super smart sister Therese, "But, holy sister, God already knows absolutely all of these things. Is it still necessary to tell them to Him?"
I am guessing the answer before I re-read and write it here for you: God does not want to live alone reflecting on what He knows without us there reflecting with Him! He has made us for Himself and He wants to share all His goodness, love, mercy, kindness, compassion, joy, peace, and intimacy with us - which means He wants us to tell Him everything we are experiencing as if He doesn't already know! Or, in Therese's words:
"It is true, little brother, that God knows everything completely. All is present to Him from all eternity. From all eternity, also, God knows, absolutely, all of that so nobody has any need to speak of it to Him. However, to 'give' and to 'receive' love He must lower Himself to the level of a man like you, and He does it as if He's completely forgotten that He is God who knows everything. In the hope of hearing an intimate word springing from your heart, God acts in this way because He loves you; He wishes by that to fill you with precious graces, to let you know of all the good desires and all the delights that one tastes in His love."
We know what Jesus has done to give and to receive - He became man to live among us, beginning His life as we do in His mother's womb, so tiny He was invisible to the naked eye even if one could have seen into that Immaculate womb! And then He was born in Bethlehem, an adorable infant ready for our caresses, completely approachable, showing us His Face, the Face of God. He didn't want us to be scared of Him - so He made Himself weak and small, He who is Almighty and infinite! But what of the Father? What about His Face? Is it as remote as ever? Is He as remote as ever? Jesus says not. Jesus says that when we see Him, we see the Father! And here is what Therese says to explain the Father's nearness and approachability . . .
"I want to make use of an example here. When a daddy wishes to give his little child a kiss, of course he cannot remain standing up straight and lazily demand that his child heave himself up to his lips to receive this kiss on his cheek. Could such a kiss be called an affectionate kiss? Evidently not! To give a kiss to his little one, it is understood that the daddy must bend down a lot, right to within reach of his face, or again, take the child in his arms. In both cases he must bend down.
"Have you understood, little brother? God is our loving Father. In order to show us His love, and to receive the love which we offer to Him, He has really wished to lower Himself to our level. For love, there is no difficulty in lowering oneself in this manner. The only problem, before which God appears to be powerless, is to notice our lack of love and confidence in Him. He sees Himself rejected in a totally unfair manner, yet He never rejects us."
We have seen the Son, alone in the Garden. The Father, though invisible in that scene as Christ was invisible in the Blessed Mother's womb, is there in the Garden too for He is in the Son . . . We have then, in seeing the Son, seen the Father, and the Father too awaits our love and confidence . . .
What shall we do? Therese shows us the Little Way to console His Heart:
"Little brother, to comfort the good God, follow this piece of advice: never be miserly in the things I am going to speak to you about. Be always ready to offer Him your heart, your thoughts and all your actions. In welcoming them it will be for Him like welcoming a new paradise where all the Trinity finds its delights. Remember this: although He is God, our heavenly Father never scorns little things. He takes as much pleasure in things which are apparently insignificant, as in the most wonderful spectacle because all of it is the marvelous work of His love."
Remember the widow's mite? I always think this was a parable until I remember that no, it really happened: Our Lord in the temple pointed out to the disciples how this woman who dropped in a small coin was giving more than anyone else because she was giving her sustenance. Small, yet great in His eyes. And those sparrows! He tells us truly that the Father knows of even a sparrow falling to the ground . . . and He clothes the lilies of the field, and feeds the cawing ravens . . . none of these are insignificant to Him, yet all the more so are our little nothings very big somethings for Him, for He loves us infinitely more than the sparrows and lilies and ravens! And we can't forget how He welcomed the children, drew them into His arms, blessed them, used them as examples for His disciples, and would not let His friends send away these little ones who had come to Him.
Finally, our sister reminds us of the knowledge the lover and beloved have of each other, knowledge that is a source and fruit of love, a cause and an effect, we might say. There must be unity for love to exist, and this unity demands "from one side and the other personal knowledge and mutual understanding." Oh how we crave such reciprocal understanding! Half of it is guaranteed when the Lover is God, but then there is our part. She explains:
"On His part, God our beloved Father knows Himself personally, and understands us thoroughly. As for us, we need Him to get to know ourselves and to understand Him. Consequently, if you did not wish to collaborate with Him in the work which leads to unity, telling Him all your intentions, your words, your actions, and all your efforts, you would never attain unity. Try to think about it in order to see clearly. There is no exaggeration in my words. I love you . . . From now on, in your relations with your Heavenly Father, do not fail to follow my advice."
One word of our sister's that I left out in those ellipses is her wish for us. She says, "My only wish is to see you accomplish the works that the divine love desires so ardently for you."
I hope that in my writing this post and your reading it we have done a work that the divine love ardently desires. I think we must have, for we have been learning Who the Father is, and how He would like us to relate to Him. Perhaps it comes as a surprise? Or perhaps you are merely reminded of something Jesus had already whispered to your heart? In seeing Jesus in the Gospels and the Sacraments, in seeing Him in HIs infancy and passion, and now seeing Him in the Blessed Sacrament in Mass and adoration, we have seen and are seeing the Father. He is love and mercy, and we can approach Him with utter confidence in His perfect Fatherhood - which is all condescension and indulgence. Let us pour out our hearts to the Father as we do with the Son. Let us stop being afraid and realize how much we are loved! He is leaning down to us, ready to scoop us up to Himself. Let us let ourselves be scooped!
I find it perfect that Jesus' oft repeated words to Philip come in between two words of advice He has for us, two commandments that are the sweetest in His repertoire. At the beginning of John's chapter 14, Jesus tells us, "Let not your hearts be troubled." Shortly after, He says, "Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father." But then not long after, He reminds us, "Let not your hearts be troubled or afraid." I love that He feels constrained to add, "or afraid," to His "Let not your hearts be troubled." As if He who is the One Word of the Father cannot help repeating that fear has no place in the presence of His divine love. And He who is present in all things by His essence, His presence, and His power (as St. Thomas Aquinas teaches), will not leave us alone to fret and stew. No, let us obey Him and let not our hearts be troubled nor afraid! And let us gratefully receive this new knowledge of the Father so that we take our rightful places as the apples of His eyes, those eyes which gaze on us always with infinite love.
Draw me, Heavenly Father, and we will run!
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