Saturday, January 17, 2009

Meeting Jesus

(2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, B)

The Gospel we hear today has a clear and fascinating structure, and one in which we can discern a plan and a pattern for our own Christian life. Notice the structure of the passage: John the Baptist points Jesus out to Andrew and the other, unnamed disciple. They follow Jesus. Jesus then asks them, “What are you looking for?” and invites them to say with him. Andrew, in turn, then points Jesus out to Simon his brother, and brings him to Jesus. Jesus then gives Simon a mission, embedded in his new name: Peter, the Rock.

So, Jesus is pointed out, Jesus is encountered, and Jesus gives an invitation and a mission. And this same pattern in the lives of John the Baptist and the apostles Andrew and Peter applies to our lives as well.

No one is born a Christian. You might have been born a democrat, or born a Giant fan (sorry), but nobody is born a Christian. Christians are made, and that means that each of us is here today, gifted with faithfulness to the Lord, because somebody pointed him out to us. Maybe it was the parent or grandparent who first taught us to pray, or a priest or religious brother or sister who made an early impression. For those of us who came to the faith as adults, it could have been a friend or one of the saints. But for each of us it was somebody; we only know Jesus today because we were introduced to Him. And for this we must be forever grateful. We should be always praying for the folks who did this for us, whether they remain with us on earth or if they have gone before us into eternal life.

Being introduced to Jesus is only the beginning, however. We must also learn to hear his voice, to become aware of his desire to encounter us. This is why we must be people of prayer; if we want to hear what the Lord has to say to us, we must make the time and space to enter into the silence of our hearts and minds, and listen for him there. It’s not an easy or a quick process. Just look at poor Samuel in the first reading today! He was only able to hear God on God’s fourth try, and for that he needed the advice of someone else, more experienced with the Lord. And so it will be with our prayer life and our listening for what Jesus has to say; there will be false starts and misunderstandings. We will require the advice of others in our discernment. So if your experience of trying to pray is obscure and distracted and tedious, congratulations! This means that we are close to being able to hear the authentic communication of God to our hearts and minds, the particular revelation God wants to give to each of us.

And the word that Jesus speaks to each of us is the same as he spoke to Andrew and Peter. First of all, Jesus invites. He calls to come and stay with him today. This is to say that invites us into the life of perfect grace that he enjoys as the Son of God. By staying with him, he invites us to enjoy the same perfect relationship with the Father that he does. This means salvation for us: freedom from anxiety and sin, freedom from the addictions and distractions of the culture of death all around us.

But just to enjoy the beauty and blessing of the peace and salvation we are offered in Christ is not the end either. Having found ourselves in Christ, we are called to go back to the beginning of the process and to become those who point him out to others. This is what Andrew does in the Gospel today. Once Jesus was pointed out to him, and after he stayed with Jesus for the day, he goes and points Jesus out to his brother. And so it is with us, brothers and sisters. The crown and completion of our Christian life comes when we are able to lead others to the Lord. Perhaps we do this best with our example; when those who are ignorant or hostile to God meet us, they should come away at least a little bit uncomfortable because they will be wondering, “What’s her secret? Where does she get such a spirit of peace and joy?” And perhaps, what we have in Christ will be attractive to others, and the Lord will use us to invite others into his grace.

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