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Jesus likes Wise Crackers Too!

Phillip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law and also the prophets, Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” John: 1 45-46

This is one of my favorite accounts of discipleship in the Bible. Each time that I hear it I always find myself laughing and relating to Nathanael’s initial response to Phillip. To put it into a present day context it would be like someone telling me one day “Marco come, hurry I have found the perfect job for you, one that will give you unbridled financial security, and benefits. Come this is the job that you have been waiting for, the job is… sales!” My first instinct would probably be to dismiss that person and opportunity because how can a career in sales be anything but lucrative. I would probably think that it was some elaborate pyramid, network marketing Amway, affiliate type of job. I would probably not so politely tell my friend to chill out, and to not waste my time with false hopes. I would probably tell him also that I had tried several similar opportunities each leaving me more broke, more upset, more devoid of hope.

We need to put ourselves in Nathanael’s position. Nathanael was probably a good, honest, and observant Jew. He was probably familiar with the prophecies of Isaaih and Micah which both prohesesized that a Messiah would be born, out of Bethlehem. This Messiah would save the faithful tribes of Israel from the cruel oppression of the Romans and reestablish a new, everlasting Davidic dynasty. Now imagine the dismay when Nathanael finds out from Phillip that this Messiah has arrived, was alive, but came from…Nazareth, a small insignificant village of probably a couple hundred. To make matters worse he was the son of a blue collar, barely making ends meet carpenter. Nothing could be further from the glorious, triumphant, earth conquering Messiah that was supposed to rescue the faithful remnant of Israel.

The next thing that I enjoy so much about this passage is Jesus’ reaction as he states,

“Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Phillip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” John 1:47-48

Note that Jesus does not condemn Nathanael’s skepticism and wise cracking comments, he instead affirms his honest and frank manner. Wow what a relief! This passage is so consoling to me because I am also a wise ass myself. (Must be my Italian upbringing) I have a quick witted, unforgiving, harsh, tongue. If sarcasm was a mortal sin I would be in the deepest pits of hell. (Thank God it isn’t a mortal sin though!) This attribute is deeply entrenched in me, it has served me well in the past and I don’t want to rid myself totally of it. For better or for worse it is fixture of my personality. I am certainly no Pollyanna, and even though I want to be a saint with every fiber of my being I am very course, and unrefined, the roughest sand paper out there.

One of my biggest stumbling blocks to coming back to the faith was that I had the wrong outlook on want sainthood was. I believed instead that in order to become a Saint one would need to be this perfect, statuesque person who was innocent like a dove, perpetually polite, constantly smiling, forever agreeable, and possessing a bleached white, angelic countenance like those saint cards you see in funeral homes. I am none of these things as those who well know me best can attest.

One of the most exciting discoveries that I made when I came back to the faith was that there were many saints and heroes of the faith that were not the perfect, Pollyanaesque type personalities that I feared and dreaded. I discovered that saints such as Augustine, Peter, Paul, Francis de Sales, Francis Xavier, Mother Angelica, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, Fr. Corapi, and Padre Pio were all far from the guileless, picture cut out, cookie cutter, saints that I fashioned them to be. One of my favorite quotes was by Augustine when he said, “Lord grant me purity but not yet.” As I read through the pages of these saints and champions of the faith, I discovered the important, illuminating fact that they were all human, full of many flaws and imperfections; but even despite these shortcomings Jesus was able to work with them through forgiveness and mercy, giving them the grace and strength necessary to overcome their weaknesses and become great heroes of the faith.

So the next time you get that voice or inkling for greatness, to become a hero of the faith don’t dismiss it, despite your shortcomings or as I like to say “smart assedness.” (I think I made up a word) You might be the perfect tool that God needs in his plan of salvation. Trust me if I can do it while tripping up a million times a day anyone can! Not bad for a sales pitch!


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