>“What are you looking for?”
Let me rephrase that: What are we looking for?
Over the last week, many of us have been looking for answers to the horrible event in Arizona. Answers to questions like, “Why?” “How could this have prevented?” and “What is wrong with this country?” During the last unsettling eight days, I noticed, and I hope that you did also, a rumbling, a stirring, maybe a whisper, of calls to right action, to put things right. Most notable to me were Jim Wallis’ call to transcend politics in response to violence; the First Lady’s call to service, inviting us to emulate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and speak out against poverty, injustice and violence; the President’s speech at the memorial service at the University of Arizona, which was actually praised by some of his detractors; the calls by many, many, more, famous and not, to stop the bickering, stop the hate, and come together. Finally, there was a comment posted on iTunes by a young person in a review he posted about the 1979 film, Jesus:
“Man, if people just went by a few of his teachings, we wouldn’t be duckin’ all the time!”
And for those who asked, “Where was God in all this, or what would Jesus do?” I say, God was present, God received those who died in his loving embrace to live another life apart from ours, God opened the hearts and eyes of many to begin a dialogue of unity, sanity and reconciliation – we only pray that it continues until love is the answer, and not violence, when it comes to resolving differences.
And Jesus? What we’ve lived through is nothing new to him.
Jesus was born and lived in times more violent than ours. Israel was occupied by a foreign empire that sucked the life and taxes out of it – people struggled to exist and live through adversity and they undoubtedly thought they had lost favor with God. There were people, however, who looked for answers and wondered about life and their relationship with God, and they nurtured and kept alive the hope that began with Abraham and Moses as they waited for the Messiah. They flocked to teachers who stirred up that hope and kindled a flame for the Kingdom of God. John was one of those, and as he gathered his disciples to him on the banks of the Jordan River, he called them to repent and return to God. More and more people looking for answers, searching for a relationship with God, came to him. But he wasn’t who they thought he was – he wasn’t the anointed one. He told his followers that the one they were searching for would come and was already among them and He would restore the people of Israel to God.
John turned seekers toward Jesus, too. When Jesus walked by, John pointed him out to two of his own disciples, Andrew and another, and told them to follow.
And so they did. Following in this sense of the word meant a commitment to discipleship. But in this instance, not yet. Jesus, who didn’t miss a thing, turned to these two future apostles and says:
“What are you looking for?”
Rather than state the obvious, they response to the question with a question. Their answer is just strange – perhaps they were taken off guard that he actually noticed them, or they were nervous or tongue-tied – we’ve all been there, right? The moment when someone you open your mouth and the wrong thing comes out as you try to impress the new boss, a potential lover, your professor? These disciples ask, “Where are you staying?” If they had asked, “We’d like to know what you’re all about,” or “We want to join your movement,” and as a result got blunt answers and a glimpse into their futures, would they have followed? Instead, they ask a strange question. Jesus tells them, “Come and see.” It is gracious, simple, and it opens up new challenges, new possibilities and a new relationship with God for them. They went and saw; they spent the day with Jesus and later went to tell their family and friends about what they had done, who they had met. Our community, our Church, began with this invitation that was extended generation to generation, down to us.
“What are you looking for?” Jesus asks us.
Even today, especially today, we have curious seekers of the truth and light, looking for meaning in their lives and to events that we cannot understand. When you and I ask, “what are we looking for?” Jesus turns to us and says, “Come and see.” He states no conditions, no regulations, no two-year contract or small print at the bottom of a rapidly moving screen.
And so we come to Jesus, and we look for and we see in Christ a life as it should be for all of us. We are given hope, unconditional love and the promise of eternal life through our belief and faith. With these, we have the means to bring harmony and love to our communities, to the world.
We are children in and of the Kingdom, called by Christ to grow and change, to be living examples of our baptismal covenant: to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves, and to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.
Can you imagine a life as wonderful as that? Can you imagine an entire world like that?
“Come and see,” he says, and we say.
You and I are called to extend that simple and gracious invitation to those searching. We are invited to call to them and say, come stand in the light that dispels the darkness, come and realize love, come be with sisters and brothers of like mind, come and help work for change, take right action, come help stop the violence, come to the Father and stand at this table, come and embrace the Word.
Come and see, for Christ invites you, and you are welcome.