The next sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy; and blaspheming, they contradicted what was spoken by Paul. Then both Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, "It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. Since you reject it and judge yourselves to be unworthy of eternal life, we are now turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, "I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles, so that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'"
When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and praised the word of the Lord; and as many as had been destined for eternal life became believers. Thus the word of the Lord spread throughout the region. But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, and stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their region. So they shook the dust off their feet in protest against them, and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
Jesus said to his disciples, "If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him." Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied."
Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, "Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.
Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.
Adapting our understanding of God to large-scale changes in the surrounding culture can be difficult and divisive, as Catholics very well know. Our church found it so in the wake of Vatican II, and is still experiencing this tension fifty years later, with traditional doctrines being critically tested against widely shared values of our times. Such trends and changes can be a way of fulfilling Jesus' words to the apostle Philip: "Whoever believes in me will do the works I do, and greater far than these." How can our works be greater than those of Jesus? Is he teasing us with unreal praise or inviting us, prodding us to move on?
Here Jesus is expressing something that parents often think and say to their children: "what I couldn't do, you must do! Take up my dreams and make them real in your lifetime." Jesus dreamed of a mission to the entire world and yet in practice could not act upon it in his lifetime. He told the Canaanite woman, just outside the territory of the Jewish people, "My mission is only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." And when she persisted, he stood his ground against her argument, before saying, "Woman, you have great faith! Your wish will come to pass" (Matt 15:21-28). Your wish, Jesus seemed to say, is my wish, how I long to see us all one, joined around the heavenly banquet table. No one would then have to survive from crumbs that fall to the ground!
When Paul and Barnabas were excommunicated from the synagogue and expelled from the territory, it served the spread of the Gospel. On this occasion Paul quotes from Isaiah: "I have made you a light to the nations, a means of salvation to the ends of the world." We can reread this in the context of any personal crisis or change, in the conviction that the whole process is under the loving, guiding providence of our God.
You'll often hear parents say to children, "you are never satisfied." There is a sense in which that is probably true of all of us. We are never satisfied. Saint Mayine said that our hearts are restless until they rest in God. In today's gospel, Philip expresses the same sentiment. He says to Jesus, "Lord, let us see the Father, and then we shall be satisfied." He understood that it is only in seeing God that all the longings of his heart would be satisfied. Jesus replies to Philip's words with the statement, "To have seen me is to have seen the Father." Jesus reveals the Father; he is the way to the Father. We won't see God the Father in this life, but God has sent us his Son. Although we cannot see Jesus in the way the apostles saw him, we can see him with the eyes of faith in this life. We can see him in his Word, in the Eucharist, in the other Sacraments, in each other. Such "seeing" of the Lord won't fully satisfy us but it gives us a glimpse of what awaits us.
Their descendants shall be known among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed. I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.
While Jesus was speaking, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, "Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!"; But he said, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!"