The Example of St. John Neumann

John 1: 43-51

1 Jn 3: 11-21 / Ps 100:1-5

Can anything good come from Nazareth?
(John 1:46)

Let us walk in humility,

Not be blinded by prejudice;

When we hear God’s call, “Follow me”

‘We shall see greater things than this.’

Jesus decided to go to Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Peter and Andrew. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip answered, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, He said of him, “Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him.” Nathanael said to Him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree, before Philip called you.” Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.” Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than this.” He then added, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (John 1:43-51)

Reflection

Prejudice is one of the most common flaws of human nature. Our orientation or social upbringing often influences us to pre-judge certain individuals based on their race, color of skin, educational background or place of origin. The apostle Nathanael was an upright and intelligent man, and yet, on impulse, his immediate response to Philip when informed about Jesus was, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” To counter this bias, Jesus promised him, “You shall see greater things than this.”

Today is the feast day of St. John Neumann, Bishop of Philadelphia (1852-60) and the first American bishop to be canonized. Perhaps it was also prejudice on the part of the bishops of his native Bohemia, as well as all the other bishops in Europe who refused his request to be ordained to the priesthood that St. John Neumann decided to migrate to the United States where he was ordained in 1836. In 1842 he joined the Redemptorist order, and after six years of hard but fruitful work, he was appointed the order’s provincial superior in America. In 1852, John Neumann was consecrated Bishop of Philadelphia in Baltimore, Pennsylvania. He was able to organize a Catholic diocesan school system that increased the number of Catholic schools in his diocese from one to two hundred. He also established many parishes.

St. John Neumann heeded our Lord’s words, “Follow Me” and “Go, and teach all nations.” If the bishops in Europe had asked, “Can anything good come from Bohemia?” St. John Neumann might have answered, “Come and see the hundreds of schools and churches that the Lord had made possible for me to establish.”

St. John Neumann’s life exemplifies what our Lord meant when He said, “You shall see greater things than this.” God does not send His disciples on a mission without supplying the means to accomplish it. Just as He gave John Neumann his exceptional organizational skills, God will also grant us the talents to use in spreading the Good News. All that is needed is to trust Him when we hear the call, “Come and see.”

Thank You, Father God, for the exemplary life of Your saints, including St. John Neumann whom we honor today. May their example inspire us to be bold in helping build Your kingdom here on earth, and never to be discouraged by any odds. Amen.

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