We Understand/See/Know in the Context of Being Understood/Seen/Known

All is gift.

The moment of relational understanding, seeing, and knowing is not the result of a talent we acquire. It is a gift we are given. What is more, this gift is giving in the context of all of these being true regarding us. It is because we are understood that we can receive understanding. It is because we are seen that we can see, it is because we are known that we can know.

This is the one of the root lessons of the story of the encounter between Nathaniel and Jesus.

All is gift. All is to be received with gladness and gratitude — eucharisto.

Pope Benedict XVI articulated this mystery beautifully:

“…the Evangelist tells us that when Jesus sees Nathanael approaching, he exclaims: “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile!” (Jn 1: 47). This is praise reminiscent of the text of a Psalm: “Blessed is the man… in whose spirit there is no deceit” (32[31]: 2), but provokes the curiosity of Nathanael who answers in amazement:  “How do you know me?” (Jn 1: 48).

Jesus’ reply cannot immediately be understood. He says: “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you” (Jn 1: 48).  We do not know what had happened under this fig tree. It is obvious that it had to do with a decisive moment in Nathanael’s life.

His heart is moved by Jesus’ words, he feels understood and he understands: “This man knows everything about me, he knows and is familiar with the road of life; I can truly trust this man”. And so he answers with a clear and beautiful confession of faith: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (Jn 1: 49). In this confession is conveyed a first important step in the journey of attachment to Jesus.

Nathanael’s words shed light on a twofold, complementary aspect of Jesus’ identity: he is recognized both in his special relationship with God the Father, of whom he is the Only-begotten Son, and in his relationship with the People of Israel, of whom he is the declared King, precisely the description of the awaited Messiah. We must never lose sight of either of these two elements because if we only proclaim Jesus’ heavenly dimension, we risk making him an ethereal and evanescent being; and if, on the contrary, we recognize only his concrete place in history, we end by neglecting the divine dimension that properly qualifies him. Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, October 4, 2006

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