Come and see – what powerful words directed to each one of us. Come and see – invites us not to take the word of another but to see for ourselves the truth. The words spoken by Philip to his brother Nathaniel in today’s gospel reading of John can just as easily be directed to each one of us today.
We human beings are rather sceptical creatures whenever we are told of something that we personally find difficult to believe. No matter who tells us we take the view that if it is too good to be true then it isn’t – so we don’t believe. Do not think such an attitude is unusual. We all do it. One only has to think of Thomas: “unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.” Thomas, who had just been told by his fellow disciples that they had seen the risen Christ, and that they had spoken to him, refused to believe the word of people who he had spent years with. People who he had broken bread with. People who shared a sure and certain faith in their leader Jesus Christ.
Thomas, who had been through thick and thin with Christ and who, several weeks earlier, had declared to his fellow disciples “let us also go, that we may die with him” refused to believe unless he saw for himself. Thomas, who had lived with Christ and was prepared to die with Christ, simply couldn’t accept the good news of Christ’s resurrection. Thomas resistance was only swept aside when Christ invited him to come and see by saying to him “put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing”. Thomas came and saw for himself and his answer was: “my Lord and my God.” Christ responds by saying “have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”
Doubting Thomas, I think, represents most of us. Ever on guard, looking for the bad in everything, cynical and above all seeing in every situation the potential for grief, sorrow and loss. Therefore, like a snail, we draw ourselves into our protective shells of disbelief. We say: prove to us why we should believe you? After all, we say that if we are to succeed in this dog eat dog world we should be the bigger dog with the sharper teeth that prevails, for what matters is winning at all costs and loss is oblivion. To us everything is questioned. To us who are rational thinking people everything is viewed sceptically. We know that there are tricksters in the world – so everybody is considered a trickster.
That is one of the saddest aspects of our fallen human nature. We cannot give of ourselves because we fear that we will be taken advantage of. We cannot meet the other in peace because we are fearful as to what may happen if we let our guard down. We cannot consider any goodness in the other because our lack of faith in humanity tells us to always be ready for calamity. So we go around trusting no-one, sneering at the gullibility of the few do-gooders and questioning – always questioning the motives of those that are prepared to rise above this sickness that we have in our hearts. The sad reality is that we do not see the way things are but we see things the way we are.
Come and see – Christ directs these words to you and me. The challenge in these words is to see things clearly without distortion and without confusion. Come and see – but what should we see? When Christ calls us to come and see we are reminded of another passage in John’s Gospel. “He who enters by the door [of the sheepfold] is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens; the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he is bought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him for they know his voice.”
To obey the call to come and see directs us to finding Christ by listening to the sound of his voice. Come and see goodness; come and see sacrifice; come and see suffering; come and see good overcome evil and above all come and see the kingdom of heaven. These are the things that we will see when we seek out Christ.
Nathanial, upon hearing Philip say “we have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth the son of Joseph” responded by saying “can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nathanial had read the Scriptures and he knew that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem and not Nazareth. So he asks to find out and to his question the response is “come and see” – and in doing so he found the saviour. So you see that we can question each other whatever we like about our faith. The reality however is that all questions are answered when we in fact go and see the master and by so doing meet our saviour. Then like Nathanial we too will say “Rabbi, you are the son of God! You are the king of Israel!” When we meet Christ we become his. Christ will say “I am the good Shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…. I am the good Shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep”. When we are called to come and see let us all without exception run to Christ and join his side without guile, without doubt, without reservation. For when we do this it is only then we can say that we are truly his.