“Do Thou give strength to seek… My strength and my infirmity are in Thy sight: preserve the one, and heal the other.” ~ St. Augustine
If you want to find something, the best way to do so is to start looking! Perhaps you won’t find exactly what you’re looking for, but at least you will have lived.
A beautiful and slightly strange word that illustrates the advantages of giving it your all is serendipity. It’s a word that comes from the ancient Persian name of Sri Lanka (Serendip) and refers to the fortune of finding one thing while you are searching for another.
Maybe this is the way it is with God sometimes and we must learn to entrust ourselves to His serendipity, because God always surprises us. He never simply lets our expectations play out as we had imagined and we never truly know exactly what we’re looking for. As Augustine said, “If you comprehend it, that is not God.”
Perhaps this is the reason the Gospels always start with someone who is searching for something, but who isn’t quite sure what he’s looking for. Matthew starts with the Magi who are following an improbable star, Mark with John the Baptist who awaits a Messiah who is different from the one that comes to be baptized by him, Luke undertakes the investigations of a professional historian, and John presents us with blundering disciples who do not know where they are going.
And yet, all are seeking. In this way, the Gospels suggest that the fundamental attitude that one must have in order to find God is simply to seek!
This week’s passage from John’s Gospel develops around the interplay of looks and words that are not fully understood.
First John the Baptist fixes his gaze on Jesus, and later it is Jesus who looks upon Simon. And between these gazes there are mysterious words: John the Baptist says that Jesus is the Lamb of God, an audacious metaphor that might have brought ancient memories into the minds of the disciples (the lamb of the Paschal supper or the sacrificial lamb of the Temple?).
In any case, they certainly aren’t ready to understand why He is the Lamb of God. It is equally difficult for Simon to be called rock. He probably felt strangely exposed, as perhaps he realized that that name touched on something profound about his life.
In any case, the lamb and the rock are words that evoke something that is not yet clear.
To seek something means to let yourself be compelled by words that you do not yet fully understand. He who doesn’t think of setting out unless the road is completely smooth and straight will probably never set foot outside his doorway.
In order to snap us out of our stagnant state, Jesus invites us to recognize our emptiness, that we lack something essential. This absence takes on the name desire. We start seeking when we desire something that we don’t yet possess.
And since we can never possess God, we can do nothing but seek Him, continually. In the Gospel, Jesus often asks the question: what do you seek? What would you like me to do? Do you want to be healed? Jesus’ desire is to fill the emptiness that inhabits each of us.
Like the first disciples, we too seek an answer. And yet, life pushes us beyond the established definitions of things, especially with God.
The first two apostles do not ask Jesus for a lesson, for a sure truth, perhaps because they are a little surprised and confused by the initiative Jesus takes with them: it is He that turns towards them and it is He that invites them to become aware of the question that they hold in their hearts.
The only thing that they know what to ask for is a relationship! The place where we live speaks to who we are. The house is the place where one becomes like family. Once a relationship becomes strong enough, then you feel free to invite someone to your house.
Though one of the two disciples remembers perfectly even the time of day of the encounter (it was about four in the afternoon), the scripture does not tell is where Jesus lives. That place remains unknown because there are so many possible places in which we can find Jesus. God does not allow Himself to be enclosed within our experiences.
The two disciples do not stay in the house with Jesus forever: they go out again. Our relationship with the Lord, if it is fruit of an authentic encounter, becomes an announcement, a proclamation: there is always a brother whom we must bring to Jesus. Andrew found Simon. And it is through these encounters that lives are changed. Simon becomes Cephas.
Life is set in motion by our desires and we alter reality along the way. Perhaps not everything will change at once, but at least we will have initiated something.
Questions for personal reflection:
- Where are you seeking God at this point in your life?
- What has the encounter with the Lord generated in you?
Catholic Bible Study on the Gospel according to John 1:35-42
John was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” — which translated means Teacher —, “where are you staying?”
He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they went and saw where Jesus was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about four in the afternoon. Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” — which is translated Christ —.
Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas” — which is translated Peter.
The Gospel of the Lord
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