Friday, January 04, 2013

Jesus asks the big question

Today's Gospel brings us to the beginning of Jesus' public life. His hair is still wet from his baptism by John, who is now pointing him out as "the Lamb of God." Two of John's disciples get it. They leave John at the Jordan and follow Jesus from a (somewhat) discreet distance. But you can't hide from Jesus! He stops, turns, and looks right at them.

"What are you looking for?"

It's a question that will appear in a different form two more times in the Gospel of John (6:26 and 18:7), and it's the most important question Jesus can ask. Indeed, what are we looking for?

When I was a teenager, the answer to that question was practically a given. Everybody was presumed to be "searching for themselves." The trouble is, without a map, you can get lost (seriously lost) looking for yourself. "Who am I?" becomes "Where am I?" and even "Why am I?" and the person risks getting more and more focused on the self. (Maybe that is part of the social quandary we are in right now.)

But Vatican II had already provided an excellent roadmap to that question of finding oneself. "Man can only find himself through a sincere gift of self." It is as if God has hidden the key to each person not in their own inner being, but in other people. In offering them the "inner key" to their lives, we experience a fullness of our own being, and all without thinking of ourselves. This doesn't mean making myself a universal doormat, of course. (Even as he is being arrested, Jesus maintains his great dignity: "Whom are you looking for? I AM.") But it does tell us that the search for self is doomed if it stays within the self.

This is one of the ways that marriage and the family reveal the truth about being human. The two, who are outwardly so different as male and female, become one in mutual self-giving. The man pledges to no longer live for himself, but for his wife and any children she may bear. The woman pledges not to seek herself, but her gift is written already (and profoundly) in her receptivity to new life. Husband and wife together become a sincere gift to the children their love may bring into existence. The family is created and sealed in a sincere, no-holds-barred, gift of self. And in the family, human existence is revealed as not self-centered, but Trinitarian.

At the beginning of a new year, it is good to let ourselves be questioned by Jesus. "What are you looking for?"


Anonymous said...

Life to most unbelievers is wonderful too i expect. They accept the facts and are willing to embrace the most probable one, which is there is no life after death.

An afterlife is a great carrot on a stick.It seduces even the most acedemic minds and most importantly, the poor, who, in hardship, have one hope to cling to.

Your Atheist to Christian friend had the right approach..To make sense of(in her mind)life and the future of her family she must have assessed the pros and cons before bringing life into this world..The perfect relief from the thought her children or others she knows and love would possibly suffer and of course eventially die will all be worth it in the end..IN HER MIND.

Now, her mind is eased. Whatever happens she knows(in her mind and no doubt, now, planted into the minds of her offpring) is the comfort of a probable myth made reality...IN HER MIND.

I myself would rather have never been here. Just like George Bailey in that film.


Sr Anne Flanagan said...

Actually, Simon, my atheist-to-Christian friend is in the hospital now with a life-threatening batch of pulmonary embolisms, comforted by the thousands who are praying for her and her unborn son. I wish you could open your heart and mind enough to offer an agnostic's prayer, but it seems that would be beneath you. A pity. But the Lord looks on you with infinite understanding, just as you are. He's okay with that.
But really, if you would, offer a grudging little prayer for Jen and her family. Who would know but you and the God you don't want to believe in? It can still be your secret...

Anonymous said...


I looked on her website just now and she's writing but back in hospital....I don't know how to respond right now because i've just really got up, i drift in and out of sleep sometimes(espcially at the mo cos i have a little flu) leaving the pc on standby.

Anyway, woke grumpy and with real excuse..I needed to confirm what you wrote..Sounds pretty bad to say this but i am just being honest..I didnt know what exactly the condition was but on her site she had a link.

I can't be much good if i went off like that, not even trusting what you said was true to the extent she could die.

Something has to be wrong with me to think like that and not instantly react in a compassionate way...I am aware of it now though...I dunno what else to say..If your god knows what's in my heart then a prayer from me wouldn't be any good...How can i do it? Rememeber when i asked you as to what percentage prayers work?

I'm still blurry and i'll get a coffee now..its just gone 6am..I know, i should have just taken your word for it but i didn't..She is a fellow human being and i behaved like this...I'm sorry.

If i can't pray then can now say get better to her through you?

Again , sorry.


Sr Anne Flanagan said...

Sure, Simon, I will extend your good wishes--if you don't mind my also offering a prayer in your name (!).
As far as what "percentage" of prayers "work," that is looking at prayer as a kind of mechanical operation. Instead, it is a relational sort of thing. Prayer is communication. What percentage of communication "works"? That depends on so many factors! How fully or honestly I am expressing myself to the other person; if the other person sees things as I do (or has a different perspective, maybe a broader one); if (in human communication) the other person receives my words. If I am speaking out loud to someone with bad hearing, my communication probably won't "work." I need to use sign language or written language. Fortunately, that is not an issue with God. Psalm 139 says (to God), "even before a word is on my tongue, you know it, O God, through and through." All we have to do is give God permission to receive what is in our mind and heart. In a way, that "permission" is the essence of prayer. God lives in each person, but he does not invade our privacy. He waits for an invitation to relationship. Or, rather, God waits for us to accept the invitation he has already offered us, from the moment of our creation. So "permission" to God turns our thinking into prayer, in such a way that we are not just expecting God to read over our shoulders, so to speak.
I hope you will be feeling better yourself soon. The flu can be miserable.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for extending my wishes...I still wish i could show more empathy to people though.

Hey, if your god wants to communicate in a tangible way i can understand then he can come on in anytime..Of course he must understand i don't believe in him and show me or speak to me in some way that is real.

I also give him permission to invade my privacy..I welcome it wholeheartedly in fact..He doesn't even have to give a specific time or day..Anytime will be ok with me.,,So, i'll just wait shall i?

"Or, rather, God waits for us to accept the invitation he has already offered us"

That can't be one of those "but only if you" type invitations is it? No catch i hope..I don't need to use sign language and i am sure he can speak in many a tongue.

Yeah, lost some of my voice too but family members probably think it's an improvement...I'm asthmatic as well... chest and coughing up stuff, aches but breathing itself isn't that bad..Not as bad as when i used to smoke anyway...Because i have not worked for many yrs it isn't bad either and nobody need look at me outside then..I hardly ever go out.


Anonymous said...

Well, as i write it is 04:34 am here in the UK.

I had a quick peek at Jennifer's website and there's been no further updates recently.

She has alot of well-wishers though, looking through the comments there.

We all know the score sister. One we're conceived we're basically dying from there on...All kinds of things can take us down..Whether it be nature itself, including man, because by nature, he can go hot or cold depending on situation or mental state of mind as we saw recently before xmas.

There are of course those wonderful virus's,diseases life has to offer and in many cases are evolving to outsmart our antibiotics. Who'd have though those god-given tiny beauties would be so clever eh?

Why, some of them might be considered virtual spouses to us humans in particular, perfectly suited to our bodies and i'm sure many are uniqually made for us. A gorgeous marriage,union of death in many cases...Consider the great plague..Another one of those lovely creations. Almost wiped out the whole of Europe. Where did thaqt come from i wonder and why place such a horrible think upon the human race?

And again, the devil, who is he really, and why is here here? How much influence, percentage, does he have on a single person and is he a part of god?

Why though would he offer someone who already has everything (Jesus/god) anything as we know from the 40 days and nights story?

It's almost as if god and the devil are one and the same but fighting each other in some kind split persnoality issue.