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?"