What Are You Looking For?
2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (B); Jan. 15, 2012
1 Sam 3:3:3-10,19: Ps 42; 1 Cor 6:13-15,17-20; Jn 1:35-42
Deacon Jim McFadden; Divine Savior Catholic Church
Unlike the Synoptic Gospels, the Gospel of John does not depict Jesus calling the first disciples while walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Instead John emphasizes a different point: Jesus does not call them, but asks them “What are you looking for?”
I invite you to close your eyes. Imagine that you are with John the Baptist and two of his disciples. Jesus walks by and the Baptist says, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” Cautiously, the two and you, follow the Lord. Jesus stops, gazes into your eyes, and says, “What are you looking for?”
At this moment, what do you feel? What do you say?
Like the disciples, each of us in some way have made tentative steps to follow the One who beckons us. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be at Mass this morning. We know where we’ve been and we have a general sense of where we’re going. But, perhaps we hesitate to surrender our whole being—heart, soul, and mind—to the Lord Jesus without some kind of assurance that he has a roadmap for this journey. Even though he is the Way, he gives us no such assurances. Like Abraham, he is inviting us to trust him, to go forth into an unknown land, into that “Cloud of Unknowing,” as the anonymous, medieval mystic once said. Jesus gazes deep into our souls, and asks “What are you looking for?”
The question is really one of Desire. What is it that we really want? People’s reactions will vary enormously. But, our desires usually begin with the basics: of acquiring pleasure and avoiding pain, such as enjoying a good meal and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. But, those desires, while natural and good, only satisfy our physical needs and there’s so much more to us than that. So, we look for something more enduring, such as financial security, esteem from others based upon our accomplishments, and control over our lives. These desires, while good if placed in perspective, are worthwhile, but we still yearn for more. Once we’ve satisfied our desires for quantity, we seek a life of significance: we want our life to be meaningful; we want to leave a positive imprint on our sojourn here on earth. But, even that is not enough. Even a Mozart or Einstein had to ask, “Is that all?” St. Augustine’s response to that question is famously contained in the opening chapter of his Confessions: “Our hearts were made for you and will be forever restless until they rest in you.”
Jesus, who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” is asking the disciples, is asking us, “Are you in tune with your heart’s desire?” Examine your life: “What are you looking for?” We will keep looking until our desire is in complete harmony with God’s grand desire for us to be at-one with the triune God. As Jesus petitioned his Father in his Priestly Prayer, “…that they all may be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also maybe in us” (Jn 17:21).
Sisters and brothers, our desires begin with many ‘whats’: pleasure, success, and ethical meaning. But, these are preliminary; they dovetail towards a greater desire. As we go deeper and deeper into the root of our Desire, as we follow Jesus’ invitation to “come and see,” we will find who we really are. At the end of our searching, we come to a place where we are no longer looking for a “what,” but the “whom.” When we look into the heart of our desires, we find that we truly and fully want to be ourselves and to be one with God and with each other.
How do we do that? The disciples had an intuition that Jesus was the ultimate object of their Desire. So, they asked him, “Where are you staying?” The disciples are moving towards commitment and surrender. Here the Evangelist introduces one of the key theological emphases of his Gospel: abiding, or staying with Jesus. The Greek verb meaning (menein,) “to abide,” is repeated twice more, as the two went “and saw where Jesus was staying (menei), and they stayed (emeinan) with him. Later in John 15, the Evangelist uses the image of the Vine and the Branches to envisioned what it means to be intimately connected to and abide in Jesus and the One who sent him.
People of God, I encourage you to notice your immediate desires and to start each day reflecting on what you are hoping for in the next 24 hours. Bring these hopes to Jesus; be specific. And, while you’re at it, try delving down a little to the roots of these desires.
Once you feel more comfortable with this habit of focusing on what you want for the day, try applying this technique to prayer. What hopes and wishes are you bringing to prayer? Imagine that Jesus is sitting with you in your sacred space, asking you very lovingly, “What are looking for today? What would you hope for today? May we strive to abide in Jesus. Now and forever!