Sir, we wish to see Jesus, said the Greek visitors in the Gospel of John. We all do, says the Very Reverend Robert Willis, dean of Canterbury Cathedral. The request made to the disciples seems so essential to our faith, that Canterbury Cathedral adopted the mission statement: “To show people Jesus.”
Just as we are seeing who Jesus is, and how he is related to the God he calls Father, we realize he is saying farewell and taking his leave of us. So we are left to follow and seek, with no certain understanding of when he will return. We wonder when we will see Jesus again.
Like visitors to Canterbury Cathedral, when we visit a church we are likely to see fine architecture, stained glass windows, and other ecclesiastical finery which reflect traditions that have evolved over the centuries. But what speaks of Jesus may be less visible at first. It is the prayer that has soaked into the place for however long it has been a place of worship. The site of Canterbury Cathedral has the location of a Christian church–at least since the arrival of Augustine from Rome in 597. But not one stone remains upon another from that period. There is no carving, no piece of furniture, no stone altar that survives the sacks and fires that have destroyed the successive buildings. Only the prayer of the people, offered faithfully to God over the centuries, remains unchanged.
When I went on pilgrimage to Canterbury several years ago, I was struck by the stones beneath my feet. Steps were worn down by the feet and knees of people who came to Canterbury on pilgrimage. In the deep faith of those pilgrims, I saw their yearning for Jesus, and I saw Jesus himself.
When God spoke from the sky, naming Jesus as his glorified son, some heard thunder and some heard an angel. So perhaps the best way to know who Jesus is, is to see him in his followers as we daily make the path and wear it a little more so those who come after us can follow it more easily and find Jesus–like the Greek visitors, who followed the disciples path seeking to see Jesus.
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