Saturday, January 18, 2014

8.00 homily for Epiphany 2A "What are you looking for?"

What are you looking for?”
If that was the way the sides-people greeted you as you crossed the threshold on a Sunday morning, it might seem rather abrupt - indeed, it might just make you turn tail and flee - but nevertheless it's not a bad beginning.
Indeed, in John's gospel it's the beginning of everything for these first of Christ's disciples.

They've been looking for something for a while. Following John, listening to his words - and when he speaks about Jesus with such confidence, 
 "Here is the Lamb of God !" -- something excites their curiosity. 
They set off to find out more.
Lacking the confidence to approach him directly, they walk a few paces behind him, going where Jesus leads…
Already it seems that he is not so much lamb as shepherd.
Sooner or later, he spots them, turns, holds their gaze.
What are you looking for?" he asks.

It’s a straightforward question, perfectly reasonable.
If two complete strangers were dogging your every step, you'd want to know why. 
But, of course it is also a question with a host of deeper meanings.

What are they looking for?

There's a song by the rock group U2 that might have been written for today's gospel. It's the story of a quest - climbing the highest mountains, scaling city walls - only to conclude "But I still haven't found  what I’m looking for”
These men have been with John for long enough to be classified as his disciples.
They have responded to his fiery message of repentance – it has touched something in them. 
But it isn’t enough. 
They still haven't found what they're looking for.
John himself has pointed them towards Jesus. 
They are hungry, like so many others, - but hungry for what? 
Hungry for healing?
Hungry for reassurance?
Hungry for change? 
Hungry for justice…? 
Who knows - they certainly don’t.
 All they know is that something is wrong with their world and it needs to be set right, that they still haven’t found what they seek.
What are you looking for?” asks Jesus, and to this crucial question they really have no answer.

So often the questions of our faith are not the obvious tidy ones…the ones that can be addressed by a catechism or an Alpha course.
We find ourselves here - drawn to church, to faith, by an unnameable, inexplicable longing….the restlessness that Augustine noted when he wrote
God, you have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you”
We wrestle with doubts.
We will not always like the church, or feel certain of our faith. 
We may go through patches when, like T S Eliot’s Magi, we are convinced that “this was all folly”, but somehow we keep coming back, almost despite ourselves.
What are you looking for?”
It’s a question that could open the door onto all sorts of undreamed of worlds…a question that just might force us to confront the needs and longings that we try to stifle…a question worth asking yourself, I'm sure.

As a priest, it’s a question I don't think I ask enough - though I often try to explore it when parents come to discuss their child's baptism. 
In my anxiety to welcome all comers, I sometimes miss out on the need to challenge them. 
I may know in the depths of my heart that in Christ every human need and longing is met, every anxious question answered - but if I don't explore exactly what it is that brings people through our doors, how can I help to serve them?
I'm very conscious that I've never asked each of you this question...
What brings you here, week after week?
What are your hopes and expectations?
What are you looking for?”
I'd really love to know.

And the way the disciples respond - isn't it classic! The sort of trivial remark I too tend to blurt out when confronted by a situation that suddenly seems to be rather more intense, more serious that I had bargained for…
I need something to fill the gap, to cover my embarrassment, so I witter away…
Ummm….(Thinking wildly) .......Where are you staying?”

Jesus’ answer is a simple but wonderful invitation. 
“Come and see!”

Some years ago, I was given this passage to pray with on retreat.
I was asked to place myself somewhere in the story, and so in my imagination, I found myself accompanying the disciples along the river bank , never letting Jesus out of my sight…
Like them I blushed and stuttered as he turned and spoke to me directly…and like them I was unable to resist the invitation to “Come and see”

And that day, as I imagined a small dark room in a sugar cube house (based in my mind’s eye entirely on the line drawings that illustrated the Good News Bible), Jesus invited me to spend the day with him…and at lunch time he took bread, broke it and placed some in my hand.

And then I realised that what I was looking for, the place where he was staying was right there…right here…Jesus in you…Jesus in me…Jesus in bread and wine….

Come and see

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