Where do you abide?

Where do you abide?

Second Sunday of the Year. Fr Richard Conrad preaches on Jesus’ first meeting with some of his disciples.

Today we read from St. John. He tells us what happened in the earliest days of our Lord’s ministry, after his Baptism, before his preaching in Galilee.

One of these two who became followers of Jesus ? was Andrew.

The other was presumably John the Evangelist. This was his first meeting with Jesus. Naturally it made a permanent impression.

St. Luke says:

Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.

Naturally, she noticed details of what happened to her Son, of what he did, of what he said, of what was said about him. She penetrated their meaning. John did likewise. In his Gospel, he helps us do likewise.

He tells us Jesus’ deliberate words and gestures, whose meaning we must explore. He tells us things that happened, apparently by chance — but see that, providentially, they are significant. John tells us things that were said, helping us discern their full import, of which the people who spoke were often not aware.

Hearing that Jesus is the Lamb of God, Andrew and John run after him. They haven’t prepared their introductions. So when Jesus suddenly says, “What do you seek?”, they blurt out, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” He (like them) is away from home; it is natural to ask where he is lodging. Jesus invites them to his abode; Andrew manages to fetch Simon before nightfall,The best Greek manuscripts imply that Andrew found Simon first, i.e. before spending the evening with Jesus. Others imply that first Andrew found Simon, i.e. then John found James. No Greek manuscript supports the Jerusalem Bible translation, that Andrew found Simon the next morning. then the first disciples spend the evening with their Teacher.

The first question the two disciples ask, can be rendered:

Lord, where do you abide?

The first thing a disciple seeks, is to know where Jesus abides. Jesus’ first invitation, is to see where he abides. That day, the disciples begin to see where Jesus abides. They abide alongside Jesus; they begin to invite others to be with Jesus — and be identified by him.

When someone gets interested in Jesus, we’d expect the basic question to be:

Who is he?

That can only be answered by speaking of his relationship to His Father. He is the Son sent by the Father, the Son perfectly attuned to His Father, who does His Father’s work. He is so like his Father that if we see Jesus, it is his Father we see.

Jesus’ identity, and delight, is to be ‘transparent’ to his Father. As his Gospel unfolds, John tells how this was made clear. What he learned, he put in the first verses of his Gospel. Jesus is the Word eternally in relationship with God, who became flesh to reveal God. Jesus is the only-begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father.

Hearing Jesus preach his Father’s reign, John began to see, in the depths of his human obedience, the eternal, divine relationship between Son and Father. John’s interest in Jesus, aroused that first day, turned out to be a desire to see where Jesus abides. That first evening, John began to see that Jesus abides in his Father’s love, both as man and as God.

That first evening, John began to abide alongside Jesus. He would stay with Jesus. At the Last Supper, he would hear Jesus give thanks over the cup, then tell his disciples to abide in him as the branches in the vine. He would hear Jesus pray that those the Father would give him might be with him where he is.

Jesus’ first invitation, to see where he abides and to abide alongside him, is his permanent invitation. We are called to share his relationship with his Father, to be with him in the Father’s bosom. He shares with us his own identity:

To all who received him ? he gave power to become children of God.

John would follow Jesus, with Mary, to stand by the cross. There he would see the Lamb of Sacrifice reveal the Father’s mercy as clearly as possible, and hand over the Spirit. On the third evening he would hear Jesus say,

As the Father has sent me, I too send you ? Receive the Holy Spirit.

Made by the Spirit into the Vine’s branches, we are sent to bring others to Jesus, and to be transparent to the Father’s mercy.

Readings: 1 Sam 3:3-10,19 | 1 Cor 6:13-15,17-20 | John 1:35-42

fr. Richard Conrad teaches dogmatic and sacramental theology at Blackfriars, Oxford, where he is also the director of the Aquinas Institute.