Sunday, January 18, 2015


   Second Sunday in Ordinary Time   B  

When I moved to Old Forge
to serve as pastor there nearly 9 years ago,
it was the first time in my life that I’d lived on my own.
And the biggest adjustment for me—of all things—
was regular grocery shopping.
Now, I knew how to cook fairly well,
and I could find stuff in the supermarket alright,
but I’d previously done those things only for an occasional meal—
not three meals, every day, every week.
It took me awhile to get my head around it.
The process sped up a bit when I miscalculated one night
and went without supper because the only store in that tiny town
had closed ten minutes before I got there…
I also quickly discovered what a dangerous thing it was
to go to buy groceries without first making a list.
I needed a plan.  I needed to know what I was looking for.

What are you looking for?

Jesus senses he’s being followed,
and turns to utter the very first words we hear him speak
in the gospel of John: What are you looking for?
Two men respond, Rabbi, teacher, where are you staying?
They’re not, of course, asking Jesus for his address.
Instead, they’re asking him, Where can we expect to find you? 
Where can we go to learn from you? 
To become familiar with our true home? 
Is there a place where you might show us how
to find favor—even friendship—with God?
And Jesus simply answers, Come, and you will see.
How trusting are these men!
And how quickly they realize that Jesus
is indeed the one they’ve been looking for—
the one who has the answers,
who maybe even is the answer himself.
That’s why we see Andrew
running to fetch his brother, Simon:
We have found the Messiah!
He’d have never been able
to share the great joy of his discovery
if he hadn’t already known what he was looking for.

As Catholics, as Christians, as disciples of Jesus Christ,
we need to be clear about our expectations.
What are our deepest desires?
What are the real longings of our hearts?
We can get more specific:
Why did you come to Mass this morning?
What do you hope to get out of this hour spent here in church?

What are you looking for?

People come to Mass 
with all kinds of expectations—
many of them unconscious 
or never actually expressed.
Some come looking for a good feeling,
others for new knowledge or inspiration,
still others to be moderately entertained.
Neither Christ nor his Church
has a corner on any of these markets;
you can find them more easily
and with far fewer strings attached
in lots of other places.
(The empty pews in our churches
tell us that people can and often do.)

But if you come to Mass 
looking for meaning or mercy,
for purpose or peace,
to express gratitude or experience grace,
then you’ve come 
to precisely the right place.
That’s because here—
in Word and Sacrament—
we encounter the Lamb of God,
who came not to pamper 
or enthuse or amuse us,
but to take away the sins of the world
and grant us peace.
He is the one 
to whom John the Baptist points:
To follow him is to find your way.

When we’re not exactly clear about what we’re looking for,
we find ourselves looking in all the wrong places.
St. Paul warns us to avoid “immorality”;
the Greek word he’s using literally means, “fornication”:
sexual intimacy without the life-commitment of marriage.
It’s a false road to follow—as if the outward life of the body
could be kept separate from the inner life of the spirit.
Some people turn to drugs or other distractions,
which only serve to dull their loneliness or pain.
Many more fall pray to overworking—
as if they could earn or achieve the most important things in life.
So much fruitless searching!

But if we know what we’re looking for—
if we’re searching for the right things,
and pursuing them in the right places—
then we make a most amazing discovery:
like young Samuel, startled from his sleep,
we realize that while we’ve been seeking the Lord,
the Lord, in fact, has been seeking after us.

I still probably go to the grocery store
more often than most other people.
But I normally come back with what I need,
because I always go with a list:
I know what I’m looking for.

Jesus’ question to those first disciples
is still his question for us today.
It’s his question for us
not just this Sunday, not even each Sunday,
but every single day,
because following Jesus—living as his disciples—
is an everyday affair.

What are you looking for?

No comments: