Sts Philip and James, Apostles

Day to day pours forth speech,
   and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words;
   their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out through
   all the earth,
And their utterance to the end of the world.
                                                       Psalm 19 [18]: 2-4

Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father.”
                                                       John 16: 9

.       .       .

The readings for today are full of puzzles, or so it seems to me. I have always loved the paradoxical character of the words from Psalm 19: “day to day pours forth speech” yet “there is no speech”? How can that be? (If we read on in the psalm, it becomes even more puzzling, I think, since the speech-that-is-not-speech somehow is also a “tent” for the sun…) And then, there is Jesus’ response to Philip’s question: if you have seen me, says Jesus, you have seen the Father. Yet Jesus himself says he is going to the Father, so there is some distinction in the unity between the Son and the Father to whom he is going. I don’t blame Philip for asking, because the whole thing seems far from obvious.

What stands out for me in these puzzles, though, is the way “knowledge” of God comes. There is the knowledge that somehow is revealed in the night, in the way “speech” comes forth in the day; and there is the knowing Jesus by knowing his relationship to the Father–and conversely, the knowledge of the Father by seeing the Father in (through? with?) Jesus. That is, the knowledge of God isn’t like the knowledge that we acquire through reading books, studying nature, or hearing lectures (or even homilies). My friend John Swinton describes the knowledge of God as being known by God. God knows us independent of our senses or our faculties, and God indwells us by the Spirit. If our senses seem to fail us (as Philip’s sight seemed to fail him), or our minds fail us, God does not fail us. We know God by God’s initiative and power, not by our own initiative and power.

That seems to raise more questions than it answers, and doesn’t solve any puzzles. But it does remind us that, in the end, it’s all grace. And that’s good.

Deo gratias.

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