In the gospel, Jesus said, “It is written in the prophets: They will all be taught by God.” In saying this, Jesus was referring to the Prophet Jeremiah who said, “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days. I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” The prophet Isaiah also said a similar thing, “All your sons shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the prosperity of your sons.” (Isa 54:13)
How will they be taught by God? Christ, precisely, is the fulfillment of this promise. Only the one who came down from heaven and has gone up to heaven can reveal to us who God is. Jesus told Nicodemus, “No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man.” (Jn 3:13) In the gospel, Jesus reiterated this truth, “to hear the teaching of the Father, and learn from it, is to come to me. Not that anybody has seen the Father, except the one who comes from God: he has seen the Father.” Hence, Jesus declared Himself to be “the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.” (Jn 14:6) He is the Shepherd and the Gate. (cf Jn 10:2,7)
He is the New Moses, the teacher, as Jesus hinted in today’s gospel. “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the desert and they are dead; but this is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that a man may eat it and not die.” Moses gave them bread from heaven. Those who consumed the bread died because the bread was just physical sustenance. But Jesus came to give us the Bread of life. In the synoptics, Jesus presented Himself as the New Moses when He ascended the Mountain to teach His disciples. (cf Mt 5:1) And at the Transfiguration, Jesus summed up in Himself the Law and the Prophets represented by the appearance of Moses and Elijah. (cf Mt 17:3f)
Consequently, if we want to find life to the fullest, we must come to Jesus who is the Bread of life. As the bread of life, He came to speak to us of the goodness and mercy of His Father. “I made known to them thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (Jn 17:26) He came to show us the way to live our lives so that we can find fullness of life by giving ourselves for the service of God and others. “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mt 20:26-28) The way of a blessed life is to live the Beatitudes, the blueprint for true happiness. (cf Mt 5:1-11)
But Jesus revealed the Father to us not just through His teachings but His very life. He said, “I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.” His flesh refers to His humanity. Jesus came to give His entire life and through His life and humanity, He showed us the face of His Father. “He who 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 in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves.” (Jn 14:9-11) In His works of mercy, His miracles, His conduct, relationship with people, the poor, sinners and marginalized, Jesus showed us the merciful and compassionate face of God, and most of all, by His death and resurrection.
But how can we come to Jesus? In the first place, God has planted in the heart of each man a deep desire for God. Jesus said to the crowd, “No one can come to me unless he is drawn by the Father who sent me, and I will raise him up at the last day.” The Father draws us all to Him, regardless of who we are. For in our hearts, we all long for eternal truth and love. This desire for the fullness of truth and love is found in every human person. Man seeks to find truth and love in their fellowmen but they are deeply disappointed. No human person can reveal to us the fullness of truth or give us the fullness of love. Only God can fulfill our thirst and hunger. That is why St Augustine remarked that our hearts are restless until we rest in God. There is nothing on this earth that is really satisfying, only God.
So the truth is that God is stirring in everyone’s heart a deep yearning for fulfillment. Whenever we feel incomplete, it means we are looking for something more. Those of us who are wealthy and have everything we want, do we not feel there is some emptiness in our hearts and we wonder what it is? It is our longing to rest in God. Those of us who are successful in life, in our career or business, and have accomplished great things in life, how long can past achievements sustain our joy? They came as quickly as they went. Even human relationships cannot last, regardless how loving it is. They too must come to an end. That is why only God can fulfill our needs and our emptiness in life.
But to come to Jesus, we need to have guides to lead us to Him. Philip proved himself to be a good guide in leading others to Jesus. He took the opportunity when it presented itself, to explain to the Ethiopian about Jesus by enlightening him that the prophecy of Isaiah on the Suffering Servant was a reference to the Crucified Christ and Lord. When the Ethiopian understood that Christ was the fulfilment of the prophecy, his heart and mind were opened and he sought baptism from Philip. Indeed, Philip was truly a good instrument of the Lord to lead others to Jesus, seizing every opportunity that he had.
If Philip was a good pointer to the Lord, it was because he was led and moved by the Spirit. He was completely docile to the Lord and did not keep anything for himself. He was filled with the Holy Spirit and he allowed the Holy Spirit to lead him wherever He chose. The first reading highlighted a few times how the angel of the Lord told him, “’Be ready to set out at noon along the road that goes from Jerusalem down to Gaza, the desert road.’ So he set off on his journey.” And then after the baptism of the Eunuch, “Philip was taken away by the Spirit of the Lord, and the eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing. Philip found that he had reached Azotus and continued his journey proclaiming the Good News in every town as far as Caesarea.”
If we want to be used by the Lord to lead others to Him, then we too must be available to the Lord like Philip. We must not resist the Holy Spirit but be attentive to how He leads us. The trouble is that we often want to lead the Holy Spirit instead. We have all our plans set up and we expect God to follow our plans. By all means, we must prepare and plan but we must also be receptive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit who is one of surprises. As Jesus said, “The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit.” (Jn 3:8)
Finally, if we are to be true guides to others in bringing them to the Lord, we must not make ourselves the focus of attention. This is what John the Baptist reminded us. “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him. He must increase, but I must decrease.” (Jn 3:28, 30) Philip showed us his self-effacement too when he disappeared immediately after the baptism of the Ethiopian. All he wanted was to make the Lord known and loved so that we too can say “this joy of mine is now full.” (Jn 3:29) Preachers and teachers must be careful not to take over the limelight of our Lord. They should be directing them to the Lord and not to themselves.