When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved. http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translation
As we witnessed during his U.S. visit, Pope Francis is a man of high spirits and good humor—he smiles, laughs and embraces people freely. In today’s Gospel we meet the apostle Nathanael, also someone with a great sense of humor. Before this passage, Nathanael had been told that Jesus came from the insignificant town of Nazareth, a hamlet of only 200 to 400 people.
His response? “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
We often glaze over that sentence, but it is a real insult of Jesus’ hometown. And what did Jesus do in response? Does he condemn Nathanael? Does he refuse to speak to him? Not at all! In fact he praises him saying that there is no “duplicity” in him. It’s a reminder that Jesus not only tolerated good humor, but welcomed it. In fact, Nathanael was welcomed into the circle of the apostles.
As Pope Francis reminds us so often, the goal of the Christian life is not seriousness, but something else: joy.
—Fr. James Martin, SJ, is the author of our special series of reflections in honor of Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. Fr. Martin is associate editor of America magazine; a frequent commentator in the media; and author of many books, including, most recently, Jesus: A Pilgrimage and his novel The Abbey.
The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew.
—Pope FrancisPlease share the Good Word with your friends!