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To know Jesus is to know the Father

Archbishop Wenski's homily at Council of Catholic Women's 2019 convention

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily during Mass with the Miami Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women, gathered for their annual convention. The Mass was celebrated May 18, 2019, in Miami.

Phillip says to Jesus: “Lord, show us the Father and we shall be satisfied.” Jesus replies: “Philip, have you been with me so long, and yet you still do not know me? He who has seen me has seen the Father.”

This Philip we encountered earlier in the Gospel. He is the one who brought Nathaniel to Jesus telling him: “We have found the Messiah.” And, later, some Greeks approached him and asked him to make an introduction for them: “We want to see Jesus,” they told him.

So, Phillip is the disciple who kept bringing people to Jesus. He was truly what Pope Francis calls a “missionary disciple”. Like Phillip we too should be disciples of Jesus, following him as the Way, our Truth and our Life. Jesus certainly wants us to follow him; but, he also wants us to bring some other people with us.

Jesus’ answer to Phillip is important, “If you know me,” he tells us, “You will know the Father.”

To know Jesus is to know the Father. Each Sunday at Mass we make our profession of faith. We proclaim that Jesus is “Light from Light, true God from true God.” He is, in that tongue twister of our new translation of the Creed, “consubstantial with the Father.”

And so, in Christ, God’s word made flesh, we discover, as it were, the human face of God. Jesus’ revelation of the Father orients us to true worship and thus keeps our faith from descending into superstition.

But at the same time, in the Creed we also go on to affirm: “For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man.”

In Christ, true God and true man, we discover the “human face of God”; but also, in the same Christ, we also discover the “divine face of Man.”

As Catholics, our witness to the faith necessarily involves witness to both truths: the truth about God and about man revealed to us in the God-man, Jesus Christ.

The truth about God, who saves, the truth about God who is the source of every gift, cannot be separated from the truth about man. Jesus, who reveals to us the truth about God in showing us the Father, also reveals to us the truth about ourselves. If knowing the truth about God in Christ Jesus saves us from superstition, knowing the truth about man saves us from sentimentality and false compassion.

Sometimes the Church is depicted as the “barque of St. Peter,” a ship captained by Peter and his successors, as being tossed about by rough seas. Well, today those seas are very rough to navigate because of the sentimentality and false compassion of our culture today.

Sentimentality is really what’s behind most of the arguments for same sex marriage. And, aren’t many of the arguments for assisted suicide, euthanasia and in many cases, abortion, advanced in the name of a false compassion?

Today, as always in her 2000-year history, the Church, like Jesus, is a “sign of contradiction.” We can never feel totally at home in the world; and, as we see in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, the followers of Jesus were persecuted — as he had been. Can we expect anything less?

In the first millennium, the persecution of the Church centered on our “God talk” — how we understood and talked about God as revealed by Jesus Christ. Delivered by the preaching of the Gospel from the superstitions of their neighbors, Christians went to the lions for refusing to offer incense to the pagan gods.

In this third millennium, persecution might more likely fall on us because of our “man talk.” Even to talk about “man talk” in a way which is inclusive of male and female seems to be in our day so politically incorrect.

And so, with sentimental arguments, some in Congress are pushing the so-called “Equality Act,” that if ever passed into law would have disastrous consequences for religious freedom in our nation.

Rather than for what we say about God, we are criticized for what we say about the human person. We are criticized for our positions on abortion, contraception, the death penalty, immigration reform, traditional marriage of one man and one woman, and so forth.

All these positions stem from our “man talk,” from our understanding of the dignity and the destiny of the human person and the conditions necessary for human flourishing in society. Jesus Christ informs our theology (that is to say, our God talk) as well as our anthropology (our man talk).

To paraphrase Jesus’ words to Philip: “To know me is to know the Father...” To know me is to know man — his dignity, his vocation, and his end.

Let me end by thanking you for all that you do. As the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women, you show yourselves to be “missionary disciples” in so many ways – through your support of your pastors and parishes, through your engagement in the public square, through your support of our seminarians, and through your scholarship support that has over the years given so many young people the opportunity for a Catholic high school education.

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