2nd Sunday Year B - Homily 3

Homily 3 - 2012

I love today’s Gospel passage.  For me, it’s the Gospel of John at its best.  John’s Gospel is so different from the other three Gospels.  It is more meditation than story; and reflects the product of sixty or so years of pondering on the mystery of Jesus in the light of the Christian experience.  Today’s passage gives us the first words, the first conversation, of Jesus  as recounted by the Gospel.  And it all looks so simple: What do you want? Where do you live? Come and see. They came and saw, and stayed.

What do you want?  Could you answer that? For me, my answer has changed and deepened over the years … and is still unfinished.  Where do you live?  What might that mean? Perhaps:  What is your familiar world, Jesus? What fills your mind and heart? What are your joys and your sorrows, your hopes and your fears? Whom are you most aware of? most alert to? And then Jesus’ wonderful response: Come and see!  An invitation into that inner world of Jesus – an invitation to intimacy, and the promise of possibility.  [Coming and seeing where he lives is what we call prayer.]  And, finally, the author’s comment: They came and saw … and stayed.  They stayed.  There’s the key to discipleship  

Thirty or forty years ago, a respected German theologian, Karl Rahner, wrote something to the effect that “Christians of the twenty-first century will be mystics – or they will be nothing.”  That sounds a bit daunting.  Mystic is a bit over the top! But, really, what he meant was pretty straight forward, if we understand by mystic simply someone who tries to be a close friend of Jesus, a relentless searcher to be close to God – someone who, as the Gospel put it, comes and sees and stays.  I relate to all that.  It all begins with: What do you want?  … and it develops and grows to the extent that we stay.

What happens when we stay?  Each of us is unique, and for each of us our journey into God will be different.  The journey can be difficult.  The experience can often be confusing.  We might begin our prayer journey by saying prayers, words usually composed by someone else, perhaps even by saints.  But in order to come and see him, we usually need to move beyond a formula of words, however beautiful or well-credentialed.  A couple getting to know each other don’t use other people’s words.  Growing in closeness, in intimacy, calls for more than other people’s words.

One author described intimacy as: “All that I am, just as I am, offered to all that you are, just as you are.”  That’s a great description also of praying.  It involves being together, spending time together, listening carefully, sharing honestly, sorting out together: What do I want?

For a while, the experience of searching for God can be quite fulfilling, even exciting.  We can feel quite close, have great insights.  Staying around might need a bit of discipline - but it seems to be worth it.  However, if we continue to stay around, the experience is likely to change.  We won’t feel God close any more.  Often, we won’t have the energy or the interest or even to want to stay close.  We can’t keep a thought straight.  We might even fall asleep when we pray – often.  We begin to have a sort of “mid-life crisis” with God.  It can be disappointing, confusing, and painful.  The temptation, as in any mid-life crisis, is to walk away, to give up, or to cut our losses and settle into mediocrity.  That would be sad.

What is happening is that God is inviting us to go deeper – to let go of what we expected God to be like, and to discover what God really might be like.  Our prayer becomes less an Ego-trip and more an exercise of faith.  We come to realise that the “all that I am just as I am” is really not who we thought we were.  What matters is that God loves and forgives an empty me, and that prayer moves beyond feeling God to sheer faith.  And we begin to get somewhere.  We come, and the real “we” meet the real God, and we stay.

But we rarely manage the journey alone.  That is where Church comes in: We need each other.  The twenty-first century Christian will hardly be a “Lone Ranger”.  We need someone who has travelled the road before us, and who has studied the terrain.  Such people are around – but sometimes they’re hard to find, especially away from the cities.