Tissot: "Come and you will see."
In this Sunday’s Gospel (Jn 1: 35-42) we hear of two questions and one answer. Jesus, the “Lamb of God,” is pointed out by John the Baptist. Two disciples of John take note of Jesus and begin to follow him. Jesus asks: “What are you looking for?” Question number one. The two disciples ask, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” Question number two. Jesus answers, “Come, and you will see.” The answer.
Now on the surface only, these questions may sound obvious. If I had someone following me for no apparent reason, I may well turn and ask what they’re looking for. However, in light of the Scriptures and Jesus himself, that question is a loaded one.
After they are invited by Jesus to “come and see,” they went in to stay with him that entire day. We can only imagine what they discussed. Whatever it was, it began a transformation of their lives. One day was to begin a lifetime. It seems our Lord did not just respond to a list of their questions or lean back over a nice glass of wine for idle chit-chat.
In response to their encounter, Andrew the brother of Simon Peter, who was one of the two who followed Jesus, left to search for his brother. “We have found the Messiah!” was his statement to Simon. They’re original “what” of seeking has now become the discovery of “Who.” The one who will bring salvation to his people. Then, Andrew “brought him to Jesus.”
It is clearly about the difference an encounter with the Lord can make in one’s life. It is a call to mission – a call from God. As we hear in the first reading about the story of Samuel (Sam 3: 3b-10, 19) and his call from God, the response should only be, “Speak, for your servant is listening . . .”
As we prepare for this Sunday liturgy it may be well to reflect on that question. Imagine that you are Andrew or the other unnamed disciple. Jesus turns, looks you in the eyes with love and hope. He calls you by name: “N., what are you seeking?”
The answer to that fundamental question comes from Christ to us through the Church, the events of our lives, and our own formative experience in the Christian/Catholic faith. We are the product of our environment and formed by the culture we live in. Both the culture of the secular world, our family of origin, and our spiritual formation through our life in the Church, however active or not we have been.
This past week, I was blessed to participate in a rich experience with brother priests at a Franciscan retreat Center in Scottsdale, Arizona. Arizona in January is the place to be by the way!
One of our three outstanding speakers was the distinguished author and journalist George Weigel. This man walks on the world stage and his words and writings are noted as significant. As author of several books on the late Pope John Paul II, Mr. Weigel offered significant insights on the Church today and its mission for the future. So much was said but I think one insight may be telling in the way we answer the question of the Lord, “What are you looking for?”
As Christians we live between two realizations: “Who I am” and “Who I should be.” As we live in the gap between those two facts we find ourselves in search of meaning and purpose. I know that as a disciple of Christ I should live a certain ideal and find my moral code formed by the revealed truth of the Gospel message (who I should be) However, I most often find myself less than that ideal (who I am). Our modern culture presents general moral confusion about which way to go.
The moral relativism of today speaks loud: Your truth/ My truth but nothing called THE truth. That is the prevailing voice that shouts through our media and our culture of self-actualization, independence, and the “rights” of freedom. None of it is based in any absolute guide of what is right or wrong for the common good of society (THE truth). Its tendency is to offer what is right for “me.” It’s no wonder that when the Gospel of Christ is presented as good news, it sounds more like restriction and closed mindedness. You don’t have to look very far to feel indifference turned to hostility towards the absolute truth of the Gospel. Think only of our positions on marriage, the dignity of each unborn child, the option for the poor that should guide economic systems, etc.
So, the question of Jesus as to what we are seeking should always be, “Well, you Lord. You and all that you are for me and for the world.” But, are we seeking for THE truth as revealed by Jesus or are we looking for A truth to live by? As Mr. Weigel mentioned, we are moving to a more evangelical Christianity in which the Church itself is the mission we offer. If the Church becomes the mission and we are those who bring that mission by our words and example then we will find a certain level of rejection and some form of persecution. Isn’t that what Andrew and the other Apostles found as well?
It can be heavy stuff, of course. But we have the hope and promise that the Spirit of Christ will always be with us. As Andrew went to Peter to tell him about who he found we can call others and bring them to see the face of God in our community. The Gospel has never been an easy fit with the world around us. But, it has the power to change us and the many others who come to follow the call of discipleship.
In our sacramental encounters with Christ, particularly in the Eucharist, it might be good to think of this call and your response. As the priest raises the Body of Christ just before Communion is distributed, he says: “Behold the Lamb of God. Behold Him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”
Like John the Baptist who said those same words to his two disciples, we are invited to “Come and see” the Lord. What a gift to the world!