“What are you looking for?”
My Dear Friends in Christ,
It hardly seems possible that the Christmas season has come and gone. In some ways it was the longest of times and yet it passed so quickly. Certainly, it was the weirdest of times. I missed seeing my family (although they didn’t say the same about me!). I appreciate using it and the connection it brings, but I HATE Zoom! Most of all, I missed being together in the hectic, blessed chaos of our Christmas Eve. I missed seeing people and teasing and being teased by them. I missed the joy of our kids and the excitement of hearing about Santa directly from them.
Christmas always brings us together in a way that nothing else does and I missed that. I am sure that most of us had similar experiences of missing friends or family, slightly altered traditions and a sense of disconnect. But through it all, we were able to make the best of it and I am so grateful for all those who assisted us in reaching out in different ways, allowing us to bring the new-born Christ into the homes and hearts of so many. At the very least we were able to pray together. We mourned for those who have died (Several of our own community as well) and grieved with their families. We’ve been touched by the struggles of so many because of the pandemic, whether financial, job related, or of spiritual, mental or physical health struggles.
In all of this, the early Christmas message of Pope Francis ring true (and convict me as of late): “Instead of complaining in these difficult times about what the pandemic prevents us from doing, let us do something for someone who has less: not the umpteenth gift for ourselves and our friends, but for a person in need whom no-one thinks of!”
And so, we go forward, not in fear or complaining, but in joy and hope. And our Gospel today gives us a grand sense of why joy and hope are possible. We hear of the encounter of the disciples of John the Baptist, Andrew and another unnamed, who, at John’s urging, encounter Christ. In the passage of our gospel today, John had to admit, not once but twice that he did not recognize Jesus as the promised Messiah. He was looking for the great warrior king who would crush the Roman oppressors, eliminate evil, and force all to believe as he thought. Instead, come the gentle Jesus who proposes rather than imposes, who invites rather than forces and who offers rather than insists. Instead of being surrounded by pomp and circumstance, Jesus comes in humility, vulnerable, to be baptized. From this act of sacrifice and submission, Jesus inaugurates the kingdom here on earth by bringing God’s love and forgiveness.
And we see in today’s Gospel, how Jesus progresses. Andrew and his unnamed friend are hesitant. They are men of faith but are attuned to the message of John the Baptist. At his direction, they follow Jesus but only from a distance. Jesus sensing the ache in their hearts, turns and asks the question above, “What are you looking for?” They respond with another question, one that reveals their longing but also their hesitation. “Rabbi, where are you staying?” They recognize Jesus as one of authority, perhaps they have heard him preach in the temple. Rather than answer their question directly or only with words, Jesus invites them closer: “Come and you will see.” Jesus welcomes them not only into His posse, not only into His home (such as it is), but into the very heart and life of God. The invitation of Jesus and welcome by Him are not mere words, nor are they superficial actions; they are life changing encounters. And in fact, at the very least, Andrew is changed by his encounter with Jesus and immediately goes to call his brother, also a man of faith. They’re not only brothers, but friends and business partners who must have spent a great deal of time in the boat, waiting for the fish to bite, discussing, among other things, matters of faith. And he brings Simon to Jesus who gives Peter a new name and a different life trajectory.
“What are you looking for?” Jesus realizes that there is within each of us an ache that needs healing, a questioning that seeks answers, an emptiness that needs to be filled. We’re looking for something, questioning, seeking consolation and comfort. We’re attracted to the message Jesus brings and the love of God Jesus offers, but we’re still hesitant to follow too closely, unsure of what it means. With this new year and the return to Ordinary Time, we are starting a new message series, “Come and you will see.” Over the next few weeks, we’ll be examining our response to the question of Jesus. A true and profound response comes in understanding the gentle call, our being drawn closer by God Who delights in us and Who loves us (and loves us and loves us and never stops loving us! – You knew I had to work that in!). We’ll gather from the examples we get in the Gospels of these early weeks, the basics of the call from Jesus and the response of those early disciples. Unlike what you may expect, these are not all immediate or complete acceptance. Like us, they have questions, they are hesitant, and they are often struggling. But eventually they respond to Jesus who invites and welcomes and only then, calls them to action.
Join us as Jesus invites us closer, welcomes us into God’s Heart and then calls us to reach out to others. Over the next four weeks, we’ll look practically at what it means as individuals and as a community to follow Christ, to become comfortable with our faith, and to live better the call Jesus gives to share our faith. “Come and you will see.”