Sunday, January 18, 2009

What are you looking for?

SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, January 18, 2009:

[Since I am on vacation, this homily is from the archives. I delivered this one in 2006]

"Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, 'What are you looking for?'"

Paddy was driving down the street looking for a parking space in a sweat because he had an important meeting that he was about to be late for. Looking up to Heaven he said, "Lord, take pity on me. If you find me a parking place I will go to Mass every Sunday for the rest of me life and give up me Irish Whiskey." Miraculously, a parking place appeared. Paddy looked up to Heaven again and said, "Never mind, I found one."

"Jesus said to the, 'What are you looking for?'" These are the first words that Jesus speaks in John's Gospel, "What are you looking for?" and they are directed to two prospective disciples sent to him by John the Baptist. At the beginning of any spiritual journey, this is the most critical question we can ask - what it is that we seek and hope to find. There will inevitably be surprises along the way. But without a goal, however vague it may be, there can be no journey and no finding a home.

The initial response of the two prospective disciples' is awkward and even embarrassed. They ask Jesus in turn, "Where are you staying?" We can presume that they were looking for what most of us are looking for from a religious teacher like Jesus: a personal relationship with God, a framework for understanding our existence, a sense of moral purpose and spiritual direction, an experience of community and a reason for hope.

In response to their question, Jesus offers an invitation and a promise: "Come, and you will see." The spiritual journey with Jesus is not for those with short attention spans. It demands attentiveness, commitment, patience and fidelity. The prospective disciples will have to find out what kind of person Jesus is and what He stands for, and they will have to confront the mystery of the Cross.This first chapter of John's Gospel serves as a preface to the larger story of of Jesus' public activity, and his passion, death and resurrection - often divided by scholars into the Book of Signs and the Book of Glory. It features a series of titles applied to Jesus that range from the Word of God to the Glorious Son of Man.

Today's passage includes three of these titles that can help us answer the question, "What are you looking for?" First, Jesus is the Lamb of God. This is an image that evokes the animals offered as sacrifices in the Jerusalem temple; it reminds us of the Passover lamb; and the Suffering Servant from Isaiah 53, who is led like a lamb to the slaughter. Those who follow Jesus are looking for right relationship with God, and they will find that such a relationship has been made possible only through the mystery of Jesus' life, death and resurrection.

The second title we hear today is that Jesus is the rabbi or teacher. Those who follow Jesus look for wisdom, and they can find it only in Jesus' teachings and example. Rooted in the wisdom traditions of his people, Jesus offers wise teachings about God, the human condition, ethics and practically everything else of lasting importance.

Finally, today we are told that Jesus is the Messiah. This title evokes hope, since it expresses Israel's hope for a perfect leader who might bring them to glory and usher in the fulfillment of God's promises to his people. The prospective disciples began their journey on the basis of the testimony of John the Baptist. Having stayed with Jesus and having come to know him, they go and announce excitedly to Simon Peter, "We have found the Messiah." In their search for right relationship with God, wisdom and hope, they are off to a good start on their spiritual journey and want to share it with others.

As always, Jesus today is asking the same question of each one of us - What are you looking for? What is the goal of your spiritual journey? What path will you take to get there? Are you like Paddy seeking something as mundane as a parking place or are you perhaps more like the disciples today seeking the fulfillment of all their hopes, of all their dreams, of all their desires for holiness, for direction, for morality and for the attainment of the Kingdom of God?

Let us today set out once again on that journey of seeking and finding. Let us set our hearts clearly on the Lord, who is for us the Lamb of God, Rabbi, and Messiah. Let us listen to His words, follow His example and join him in that Kingdom prepared for each of us from before the world was made."

Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them,'What are you looking for?'…[And Jesus] said to them, 'Come, and you will see.'"

My brothers and sisters, what are you looking for? Seek and you will find.

May God give you peace.

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