Image: Hunter and Sled
As we celebrate the feast of Saints James and Philip our Gospel brings us back to the table on the night of the Last Supper. Jesus, surrounded by his apostles, is sharing with and preparing his friends for what lay ahead. Thomas asks to follow Jesus where he is going but is concerned that he won’t know the way. Jesus comforts Thomas by assuring him that as long as he believe in what Jesus has taught him he will find the Father and not be lost. Philip remains unconvinced.
Philip wants to see the Father, for him faith is not enough. Like Thomas, who will later doubt the Lord’s resurrection, Philip needs something tangible to hold on to in order for Jesus’ words to make sense.
A hunter and guide in Paulatuk told me a story of being out on the land and trying to get back home. It was dark and a shroud of ice fog had settled in making visibility next to zero. The hunter was blind, at least in a conventional sense. But all around him were signs showing him where to go. The hills, back-lit by the moon made silhouetted landmarks in the fog, the snow drifts formed by the prevailing winds pointed in a certain direction, the terrain which he knew by rote changed under his feet and told him moment by moment where he was and how far he had to go. But then the hunter told me what was even more important, “even if all the signs had been missing I would still have found my way because I know the land, it is in my heart and my body would just follow my heart home.”
Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me?
Jesus’ words to Philip are poignant and true. For three years the apostles had traveled with Jesus and witnessed the signs and miracles but when the time of testing came signs and miracles were not enough. It was necessary to trust that they knew their Lord and that faith in Jesus would lead them where they needed to go.
We have been given many signs to believe with regard to the risen Christ. In the first reading St. Paul recounts to the people of Corinth how Jesus made himself known after the resurrection not just to one or two but to hundreds of people who have given their testimony. But testimony of others is not always enough. St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that,
“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.”
No amount of signs or evidence will ever be enough if we do not take the leap of faith that Jesus asks of us. We have been given so much but at some point we must trust that the way to the Father will be made known to us if we place our faith in the Son.