Last Sunday we heard of our Lord’s baptism as told by the Gospel of Mark. Today we hear what happened next as told by the Gospel of John. The story is unfolding. We are at the beginnings of Jesus’ public activity. There’s an ancient tradition that Jesus began his public ministry at the time of the spring equinox, when the hours of daylight begin to prevail over the dark. That would fit. In agricultural societies, it’s the “hungry gap” when the winter supplies of food are running out and the new crops not yet in. People will feel needy. Crowds have gone down to the Jordan valley to hear the provocative, baptising prophet John. Spring is about. There’s warmth in the air, birdsong, fresh green. The light of Jesus is rising and new things are happening. John the Baptist sees him walking by, gazes at him, and points him out to two of his disciples: “there’s the Lamb of God.” The two young men follow. I imagine them doing so cautiously, partly out of shyness, but maybe wanting to keep a distance, not be observed, suss this fellow out. There’d have been people milling about, but Jesus swings round and sees these two, singles them out with his eyes. And he speaks his first words in the Gospel of St John: “What are you looking for? What are you seeking? What are you after?” It’s a question for the heart straight from the Johannine Christ. And these are not just his first words in the Gospel. They’re the first words Jesus has spoken to us from Christmas on; I mean, spoken to us in the Gospel readings of the Sundays and Solemnities of Christmastide. In those of Christmas night and Christmas day, he was silent; just born after all. The same for the feast of Mary, Mother of God: no word from him. Nothing on the Epiphany, nothing last Sunday. The Father, rather, spoke to him. Today, though, the Christ of the Liturgy turns round and sees all of us following, be it on YouTube or however. And he speaks. He asks us: What are you seeking? This is our Samuel moment. It’s our hearts being touched. Actually, this is very much a Samuel moment. In that story Samuel just hears a voice in the night, three times – scary. Old Eli then realises what’s going on and tells the boy how to answer if the voice comes again. And it does, for a fourth time. But, when it does, it’s more than a voice. This time it says, “the Lord came and stood by”. Not just a disconnected voice, but a Presence. Back to the Jordan. The two disciples had been listening for some time to a Voice, John the Baptist. That’s how he described himself. Now suddenly the Lord himself, long prophesied, has come and is there in the flesh and speaking to them, not disconnected at all. This is something new. And so with us. The Lord is present among us in the Spirit. The Lord’s day is a moment of grace. “What do you want?” In response, the disciples blurt a question back, “Where do you live / stay?” Their words mean more than they know. But at the first level, here’s a couple of guys caught off guard, saying the first thing in their heads. If it was now, they’d be saying, “Er, er, er, do you have a Facebook page”? “Where do you stay?” Jesus gives his simple, gracious answer: “Come and see”. He just takes them to his place and they stay there, entranced, the whole day. “Come and see”. At a deeper level, Jesus is inviting them to share his future and see the signs he will work: changing water into wine, giving sight to the man born blind, raising Lazarus. “Come and see” me lifted up on the Cross and risen from the dead. Come and see that I live with the Father and he with me, and I want you to live there too. When then, on the 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, even virtually, even online, Jesus says to us “Come and see”, Jesus – the liturgical Christ – is inviting us to “come and see” him as the coming feasts and seasons unfold his mysteries. He’s asking us to walk with him through 2021 and see the glory of the Father shining in him.
There’s a first thought: let’s stay connected, follow the story.
Here’s a second. “Click and collect”, the shops and services say. We talk of people clicking too, don’t we? So relationships start, friendships are made, marriages happen. Today two young men clearly “click” with Jesus, and he with them. And he begins to “collect” disciples around him. Jesus and Co is setting up. On day 1, it’s Andrew and an unnamed other, surely John. On day 2, it’s Simon, son of John, who’ll be called Cephas. The next day – reading on beyond today’s Gospel – it is Philip and Nathaniel. “Click and collect.” Then Jesus and his five first disciples go back north – to a wedding in Cana, where he provides good wine and they meet his Mum. There can’t be a community without a mother. Something is underway. Jesus is founding his Church. “Click and collect”. And so it goes on. What the historical, Johannine Jesus does, the risen and glorified Christ goes on doing, through his Spirit, through the sacraments, in all sorts of ways. “Click, click, click” in heart after heart. “Collect, collect”. Jesus is growing his people.
As often, it’s the 2nd reading, it’s St Paul, who brings it all together. “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?” Keep them as such; don’t throw them around. A mystical Body is growing and we are part of it. “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price”; you have been “collected”. You are one body, one spirit in him. “So glorify God in your body”. Brothers and sisters, this is so, so worth being part of.
(St Mary’s Cathedral, 17 January 2021)