Is there a person out there that you know almost better than yourself? Not a spouse, but a friend or relative who is dear to you, whom you spent countless hours with? Maybe it was a best friend from high school or college, a roomy or a cousin who lived close to you? Someone who you saw or spent time with daily for three or four years? Many of us have had the privilege of getting to know an other in this very intimate fashion. In that experience it is easy to come to a comfort level with that person’s likes and dislikes, tastes in food, humor and entertainment as well as their intellect and ability to “deal” in many different situations. This was exactly the situation that the disciples experienced when it came to the Master. For three uninterrupted years, they were with him day and night, eating, sleeping, in private, in the presence of massive crowds, there when authorities threatened and when people fell down and adored him, when he walked dusty, hot roads and when he walked on water! So how is it possible that they could not know one of the most integral parts of his personality? Yet in John 14 an incident is recorded that tells us that even the disciples missed one of the most vital elements of his personality: “Philip said to him, ‘Master show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? 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?” (Jn 14:7-11) Although it is rarely mentioned in commentaries I personally believe that Jesus’ initial response in this passage clearly shows that he is aggravated. It is reminiscent of Mark 8:12 and John 11:33 where, in each case, Jesus sighs in frustration when asked to perform a miracle. In his full humanity it is hard to believe that he was so stoic that he never got frustrated. That image would not really be true to his incarnation. So his annoyance with his disciples shows up in this incident again. What is it that they missed? It’s simple, they were seeing double and ignoring the “obvious”.
In their time with Jesus on earth the disciples were physically present at occasions when Jesus did things that were simply impossible, grand miracles, small miracles, raising people from the dead. How is it, then, that when Jesus clearly points to and re-teaches, for the umpteenth time, his intimate connection to the father, that Phillip blurts out: “show us the Father”? Holy cow, for years now the disciples have been observing and living the astounding works of God (the Father) here on earth as a matter of regular course. How is it that Phillip could be such a knot-head? Maybe they all knew Jesus too well and came to a comfort level with him that was full of too much ease? After spending time with Jesus the disciples simply “forgot” that what they were seeing every time they looked at Jesus was two things, not one. This was not merely a good and loving man who had a great ability to preach, but also God incarnate here on earth. That’s where his power came from, it’s how the miracles were created, and it’s the source of the amazing love that he showed. In short, what they were really seeing the whole time that they spent with Jesus was the visible and the invisible. They were seeing double the entire time.
Hebrews 11:1 reminds us that it is our responsibility to practice faith. When we do that, it goes without saying that we acknowledge a dimension that cannot be perceived with human eyes as well as enable the Lord to work though us in this tangible world. It’s all too easy to forget that the unseen dimension of life exists and that it is really the place where we belong and are ultimately bound for. The unseen (spiritual) world is a conundrum because although we can’t see it, that reality is of far greater import than anything we could see or touch in the dimensional world. The disciples saw the acts of God himself, in the unseen dimension, all of the time when they were with Jesus. Yet they asked for proof in the form of someone they could see: The Father. It is no surprise that Jesus expressed frustration at this. We get too focused on what we can see, touch, prove, have. Even if the Father suddenly did put in an appearance, maybe the disciples still wouldn’t be convinced? Remember that although Thomas saw the resurrected Jesus himself, that still wasn’t good enough until he got to touch! Thomas was also reminded by Jesus that his faith was based on the "tangible" but that those who believed without "proof" were specially blessed in a different way (See John 20:29).
How much attention do you give to your own “double vision”? All believers have it. Many of us ignore it. Do you have a firm awareness that, as a follower of Jesus, right now this minute you are occupying space in both the seen and unseen dimensions of life? As a person of faith, this is your vested responsibility. You need to acknowledge this supernatural fact. Your awareness of who you are and where you are is a tool of the faith which will defend you, encourage you, protect you and school you. In addition you have the responsibility to teach other nascent believers about all the things that it takes to be a believer in the world. You can’t do that unless you have a firm grasp and acknowledgement of: the communion of saints, the miracle of the Eucharist, the efficacy of intercession, the consolation of the spirit, the authenticity of miracles and the validity of interior communication with God. These things are not figments of imagination. They are the realities of a faith life, things that can’t be seen with the eye but only the spirit. Double vision is an important reality as we pursue a life of faith. I think that’s it’s safe to assume that the disciples “eventually” developed that vision. When we finally learn to tune in to our double vision we are able to come to an understanding that we have been "...chosen out of the world by Jesus. When we act out of that belonging, conscious that we do not 'belong to the world', we change the world." (Magnificat, Vol.12, No.3, May 2010, p. 101) With any amount of luck, you’re on your way toward developing your own skill of "double vision" but as we all know: “Perfect practice makes practice perfect”. (Sebastian Lewis, OSB †2007)
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Copyright ©2010, Kathryn M. Cunningham, All Rights Reserved
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