What do you seek?
Second Sunday of the Year. Fr Martin Ganeri invites us to imitate the desires of the first disciples.
Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, ‘What do you seek?’ (John 1: 38).
Every time someone enters the Dominican Order as a novice or makes profession in the Order that person has to lie prostrate on the floor in humility and supplication. And the Provincial asks him, ‘What do you seek?’
There is usually a short pause. The question leaves it open as to what the answer will might be. Any answer could be given. He could ask for the certainty of an interesting job. He could ask where the nearest exit is? Anything is possible.
However, usually again after a few moments comes the muffled reply, ‘God’s mercy and yours.’ ‘God’s mercy,’ that is to say God’s grace to follow this vocation, and ‘your mercy,’ possibly, at that moment, just the signal to get up, because by now lying on the floor is getting a bit hard and uncomfortable, but, more profoundly, also the assistance and forbearance of the brethren as the human embodiment of that vocation.
‘What do you seek?’
In the Gospel of John these are actually the first words that Christ speaks. In the opening verses of the Gospel (John 1:1-19), John tells us that Christ is the Word, who was in the beginning, who was with God and who was God. He is the Word through whom all things were made. He is the life and light of the world. He is the Word who has revealed God in the long history of God’s saving history with Israel. He is the Word who has taken on our human flesh and lives among us in our world. And now the incarnate Word speaks and asks this one simple question, ‘What do you seek?’
So many centuries in the long history of humanity have passed. So much has happened. So many opportunities and so many failures. The Fall, the Flood, the election of the people of Israel and the promises and the covenants; the oracles of the prophets in warning, condemnation and hope; the exile and return of Israel. So many words and so many responses. And after all this, God turns asks this one question, ‘What do you seek?’
This will be the question that Christ will ask in different forms again and again through the Gospel. At the marriage at Cana when his mother turns to him when the wine runs out. In the many long dialogues with the Samaritan woman, with the man born blind, with the Jews who see the signs Jesus does, and with his disciples. In all of the events of his incarnate life he reveals his divinity and the nature of the salvation he offers, reveals the abundant and eternal life that human beings can have if they follow him. But what do they seek? What are their intentions and desires? What do they really want from him, from their human lives, from God? Finally, the question he puts to them in the garden on the eve of his Passion when he asks them, ‘Whom do you seek?’ (John 18:4).
‘What do you seek?’ This is the question that he continues to pose to each of us. What do we want for ourselves, for our world, from our God? Is it wealth and material goods? Is it power and position? Is it the freedom to do just as we want? Or is it indeed ‘God’s mercy and yours?’ It is an open question to which we are free to answer as we choose.
‘And they said to him, ‘Rabbi (which means teacher) where are you staying?’ (John 1:38)
An odd answer we might think. Neither one thing nor another. Certainly not the kind of answer we might expect. And yet the answer that they give one that shows that they do seek God’s mercy and the embodiment of that mercy in Jesus Christ. For what they ask is to abide with Christ, abide with the one who is the teacher and the giver of the deepest meaning and goals of human life. Christ is ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). He is the who reveals and brings about the full dignity of human life, as created in the image of God, as redeemed by the Lamb of God, and as destined for eternal communion with God in heaven.
‘What do you seek?’
God waits in silence for us to give our own muffled replies. Will it be to stay with Christ the teacher and to seek God’s mercy and his? It’s up to us to answer.