2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Fr. Simham)
What do you want?
Where do you live?
What we read today as our gospel is a wonderful story. If we look at it at the peripheral level it is a wonderful drama. There is John baptizing at river Jordan. A great crowd of people are in queue and there are two disciples of John helping him out with the baptisms. The camera now focuses on Jesus passing by. Camera back to John who sees him and proclaims as if he cannot control himself, “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” The whole crowd is stunned and they all look at him. There Jesus walking calmly. Cut the scene. Next take, there the two disciples following Jesus as he walks alone. When Jesus walks they walk and when he stops they stop and start to look around as if they are doing something. Again when he starts to walk they follow him. Knowing that they are following him, he stops and asks “What do you want?” Surprised, they babble and say “Master, where do you live?” We just want to know your village where you come from. He tells them “Come and see” and starts walking again. I can go on dramatizing it.
But believe me Evangelist John was not writing a drama or fiction. He was writing a gospel. And it is widely accepted that John’s gospel is the most theological of the four. He never wasted a word. Each and every word used by John has a deep theological meaning in it. That is what I want to analyze with you today. The few words spoken by the characters have profound meaning spiritual relevance to our lives. Let us see what they say.
As Jesus was passing by, John the Baptist says “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” He means, ‘here is your God and saviour passing by. Don’t miss him. Follow him or hold on to him when he is near.” The two disciples understand this. They don’t want to let him go. So they follow him.
Now, looking at the two disciples who follow him, Jesus says “What do you want?” It is not the ‘gene’ in Allahuddin’s magical lamp story asking Allahuddin, What he wants. Food? means of transport, house, money, power and authority? What do you want? Jesus did not mean this. Because he did not have any of these. So, what did he mean then? What he asked is, “dear men, what made you to leave your master and follow me. What is you intention behind your following me? Every action has a purpose or should have a purpose; what is your purpose?
Look at their response. It is as deep as Jesus’ question. They respond to him at the same level. If they were to understand it at the peripheral level they would have probably asked for some money or power or something. No! that is not the purpose for which they followed John the Baptist first and follow Jesus now. Their quest or purpose is something more sublime and deeply spiritual. They express it in their words. “Rabbi, where do you live?” At another level it can be understood as ‘teacher, where is your school?’ Those days Rabbis had their own schools and all those who want to learn will go to join their school. So here two interested students are willing to join his school. So they follow him. It is a wonderful way of looking at it.
But John the Evangelist has a deeper and profound insight than this. The Greek word used for the word live is “Menein” Which means ‘dwell or abide” Jesus uses the same verb at the last supper when he talks about how he dwells in the father and the Father dwells in him. (C.f. Jn. 14/10-11) So what they were asking is not the street address or house address. But instead they ask “In whom do you dwell? Who is enabling you to live such a life of renunciation? Who is the source behind your strength? What is the secret of your energy or holiness? For this Jesus says “Come and see it for yourselves. Come and experience it yourselves.” They go. They stay with him. And proclaim “we found the Messiah”. The conclusion they draw indicates that they came to see not his house but his companionship. They found him to be dwelling in Spirit and Truth (God himself).
Now what does it mean for today? I just want to pick up the two important questions asked in the gospel today. First, what do you want? What is your purpose for coming here? On this Sunday which is your weekend holiday, why are you here? It may be a strange Question. But ask yourselves and see “Why are you here? What brought you here? What do you want from him?
Secondly, where do you dwell? Don’t tell me “I live in house number 34, Simpson Ave, and so on.” No. What I mean is “In whom do you dwell?” Where do you find your happiness in life? Jesus’ invitation is “Abide in me” I am the vine, you are the branches, abide in me to bear fruit.” God bless you all!
Fr. Showreelu Simham