2nd Sunday Year B

See Commentary on John 1:35-42 in John 1:35-39 & John 1:40-50

Homily 1 - 2006

We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with images, flooded with information, kept abreast of the bad news from all quarters of the globe, bewildered by opinions, tricked by spin, stimulated, or drugged, by incessant noise, voices, colours  - a world of events, opportunities, offers and invitations.  It call all seem too much: “Let me escape to the garden or to the kitchen” - but even there, the choices and the opportunities seem endless.  What’s it all about? What’s it all mean?

I love the conversation (if that’s what you can call it) in today’s gospel.  What do you want? Where do you live? Come and see!

What do you want? They are the first words of Jesus in John’s gospel, and, as you would expect from John’s gospel, they are profound.  What do you want?  But before Jesus asked that question, Andrew and his unnamed friend had begun tentatively to follow.  So something was stirring.  They knew they were looking for something, for someone.  That’s why they possibly had started off hanging around John the Baptist.  Had John the Baptist not quite touched the spot? They were looking for more, for some tantalising, undefined, more.  Perhaps they couldn’t answer Jesus’ question, certainly not off the cuff.  Perhaps the question defies an answer; and keeps on opening out as each stage of the search is reached.  The “more” we seek may be infinite.

So they didn’t answer Jesus’ question.  Instead they asked Jesus a question: Where do you live? And that’s a great question, too, and since we’re right into John’s gospel, it’s a profound question.  Where do you live?  What is the world you inhabit? What’s it feel like? What’s the atmosphere, the scent in the air?  Where do you live?  Who’s the company you keep? What are your desires? What do you want? What is it about you that seems of itself to create trust, to engender hope?

Their question brought Jesus’ invitation: Come and see!  And that’s profound, too.  You’re welcome!  Get close.  Be open to the possibilities of friendship, of mutual trust.  Be open to learn the vision, and to discover its source in the infinite mind and heart of God.  Come and see!  Come and listen!  in the stillness, in the quiet, in the darkness, in the emptiness.

The First Reading today reflected something of the same search, the same yearning.  Speak, Lord, you servant is listening - and the contemplative Samuel, so we were told - let no word of God fall to the ground.  The Psalmist also took up the message: You (God) do not ask for sacrifices or offerings, but an open ear. 

An open ear!

What do you want? Where do you live? Come and see!  It’s all there - the “breathing space” in an otherwise fragmented, desperate, out of breath world.

Homily 2 - 2009

It is better to approach today’s passage from the Gospel of John not as a documentary but more as a poem.  Let the words say more than they say; savour them; draw out from them the last drop of flavour.

Look at Jesus’ question to the two people who had begun to follow him: What do you want?  The question is the beginning of every genuine search for what matters.  What do you want?  Not: What should you want? Not: what do the culture, the media, your peers, the atmosphere you breathe tell you that you want; but: What do you really want?  What do you want?  It’s important to touch into the desire, since it is from the desire that the energy comes.  It is a lifelong task to clarify our deepest desire.  We think we’ve got it, but then we realise: No – there’s more.  It’s the journey to real self-knowledge – and it is the only journey worth going on.

The two who were following Jesus, answered: Where do you live? They didn’t know yet what they wanted, but it seems that they knew that they wanted … and they intuited and hoped that, perhaps, Jesus knew and might help them.  Where do you live?  The word translated as “live” has lots of meanings.  Their question was not: What’s your address? but was more like: What’s the world you inhabit? What is your experience of being alive? How do you see things? What are  your hopes, your fears, your goals?

What is precious to you?  Where do you live?  For us, the question springs perhaps from the same intuition that inspires the song: “O Dear Lord, three things I pray – to see thee more clearly…”  and, then, perhaps, “to love thee more dearly” – but that might grow later.

Jesus replied: Come and see.  Words won’t provide the answer – only life, experience, shared intimacy will lead the inner eye to see.  We need to go beyond informing the head to connecting at the level of our hearts and spirits.  They stayed with him the rest of the day.  The word “stayed” is the same word translated earlier as “lived”.  Here it could well mean: They spent time with him; they entered his world.

That is what can happen when we accept the invitation to Come and see.  We enter his world: slowly, we see through his eyes; we begin to love the world, and especially people, with his love.  Meditation expresses so well our effort to stay with him.  As we see him more clearly, gradually we love him more dearly, and we find ourselves wanting, able and empowered to follow him more nearly.

What do you want? Where do you live? Come and see? And they stayed.

 “Oh, Dear Lord, three things I pray: to see thee more clearly; to love thee more dearly; to follow thee more nearly…”

We stay not just, as with the two disciples, for the rest of that day, but : “Day by day, day by day …”

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.

Homily 4 - 2015

During this past week, we had our annual priests’ retreat at Halls Gap in a local Conference Centre – a far cry from the Redemptorist Monastery in Ballarat in the old days! On the last evening, a couple pulled up in front of the unit next to mine, on a motorbike – a big, powerful Triumph. It was spotless, not a speck of dust, with shining chrome radiator and chrome exhausts.

It reminded me of a priest friend of mine who died just over seventeen years ago. Earlier, we had studied together for three years at St Pat’s College in Ballarat, and had both started at the seminary on the same day. A few years before he died, we had both been living in the presbytery at Ballarat North. On a casual visit some time later, he told me he had recently seen his doctor – who had diagnosed him with inoperable cancer, and gave him about twelve months to live.

One of the first things he did was to go out and buy himself a new motorbike – not as big as the one I saw at Halls Gap – but state-of-the-art nevertheless. Years before as a student, he had owned a bike. He just loved riding it and generally lairising around the place. After his diagnosis, every day the weather permitted, he got on the bike, and for an hour or two would ride the open roads and hills around Ballarat, enjoying himself like a young child. If he did not have long to live, at least he would live fully what he did have left. He came again to mind when I read today’s Gospel – with Jesus’ question, What do you want? What a great question! What do you want?

About fourteen years ago, just a few years after my friend had died, I had a bit of a health scare myself – nothing too serious, as things turned out, but enough to get me thinking, and keep me thinking. My death, after all, like my being born, will be one of the most important things that ever happen to me. I decided, like my friend, that, when I die, I do not want just to die, but I want to live my dying. I want to place my life deliberately and whole-heartedly into the hands of God. Luke’s Gospel has the struggling, suffocating, dying Jesus still irrepressibly crying out, Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.

St Paul once wrote to the people of Philippi: All I want is to know Christ and the power of his resurrection. Christ’s resurrected life, of course, is human life at its most intense – life to the full. I find Jesus’ example, Paul’s desire and my friend’s response all compellingly contagious.

Of course, I have no idea when or how I will die; so the only way not to get caught off-guard is to do my best to make every moment of my life a case of Father, into your hands I commend my spirit. I want to love every moment. As far as I can, I want to enjoy every moment. I want to accept every moment of my life as a gift from God. I want to let go of the need to control what happens and how it happens, and just be grateful that it happens, whatever it is. I want to learn to see God present in every situation, whatever is going on, enabling me to grow.

As well as facing up to Jesus’ question, What do you want, I want to accept his invitation to Come and see. Like the two disciples, I want to Go and stay. To stay with him all the time – now – observing him, learning to recognise him, to be intrigued by him, and hoping constantly to be transformed by him. From where I stand, to come and see means to keep mediating faithfully, regularly. That is the best way I know to keep my life focussed, my desire fresh.


 Homily 5 - 2018

I find today’s first reading quite evocative, and the Gospel even more so – so I shall touch into both of them, unfortunately briefly.

In the First Reading God’s calls the 10 y.o. Samuel. What we make of that call may depend on what we assume was the tone of God’s voice: Samuel, Samuel. Was it commanding, off-handed, impatient, angry, indifferent, loving – Samuel … Samuel? What do you think? What was your spontaneous reaction? How would you have read it?

If God were to call you, how do you think God would sound? Your answer might tell you how you generally think of God’s attitude to you. Does God love you, whole-heartedly? half-heartedly? sometimes lovingly, sometimes not?

Eli’s advice to young Samuel gives us some insight into how Eli saw God, “Say, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening’.” What is the relationship between Lord and servant like? Certainly, Jesus assured his disciples, “I do not call you servants, but friends”. Yet, so often our official prayers address God as Lord. A friend of mine said she counted it forty-six times at Mass, and she gave up counting halfway through! Interesting – how do we see Jesus? how do we see God? We probably address God and Jesus, too, as Lord unthinkingly, purely from habit; yet our practice could reveal something truer than we realize about the feel of our relationship to God.

That brings us to the Gospel reading. And in some ways it is vintage St John: words are few, but they are heavy with meaning. Let us focus on the brief dialogue between Jesus and the two disciples of the Baptist.

Jesus asked, What do you want? Let’s look more closely. The word translated as want is more accurately translated as seekWhat are you seeking? While merely wanting can remain somewhat passive, seeking is active and implies some initiative on their part. It supposes more commitment. In John’s Gospel, these are Jesus’ first words – so highly significant. Can you hear them spoken to you? That could be your homework for the week [and be careful of his tone of voice!]

The disciples replied, Where do you live? In fact, the word live may mean something closer to “hang around with” – so their question may in fact be more like, “Who is it with you, in your inner world, when you are alone?” Or, “What is your usual personal inner experience?” Have you ever wondered that about Jesus? or reflected on you own inner experience?

Jesus’ response, Come and see, then, may be more like, “Get to know me better”, “Let me tell you about myself”, or “Let me introduce you to the God I hang around with, and whose loving presence I am continually conscious of”.

Then John commented, They came and saw and stayed. And, though it is not obvious in translation, the word rendered now as stayed is the same Greek word rendered earlier as live [in Where do you live?]– and having that more flexible meaning of “hanging around with”.

The rest of the Gospel will show just how much, through their couple of years of hanging around with him, the disciples indeed would come to know better and better Jesus and the Father of whom he was the human revelation. They came to understand more and more what love really does mean. And if we take the time to ponder the Gospel, we too can come to discover what love really does mean, and how much Jesus’ love and that of his Father are truly without conditions, without even expectations. We can become convinced that Jesus says also to us, I do not call you servants but friends.

The God who called Samuel could have called only with the profoundest love. The God who called those first disciples could have called only with the profoundest love. The God who calls you and me can call only with the same profoundest unconditional love. The rest is up to us.