Year B: Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
They saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him
John 1: 35-42
The next day John was there again with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So, they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about four in the afternoon. Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed) then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter)
- Jesus asked the disciples “what are you looking for?” How do you respond to this question? Can you explain what you are looking for?
- When the disciples ask Jesus where he is staying, he does not tell them, but instead invites them into a relationship. How have you been invited and come to know /experience Jesus on a personal relationship level? What does that look like in your life?
- What do you think God desires from you?
- Being called, recognizing, following, and proclaiming to others, are all dimensions of discipleship. How are these taking shape or being enacted in your vocation as a disciple?
- How have the events of this past year and what lies ahead challenging your discipleship journey?
Mary M. McGlone CSJ
Lamb of God has sacrificial overtones. It suggests that Jesus is the sacrifice God This reading, like that from 1 Samuel, leads easily if not inevitably into a reflection on vocation. John the Evangelist narrates the fulfillment of John the Baptist’s vocation, gives some explanations of Jesus’ vocation and presents two examples of the vocation of discipleship.
John the Baptist’s entire vocation was to point to Jesus, the one who was to come after him. We first heard about that in the prologue to the Gospel; now the Baptist fulfills his vocation by directing his disciples to Jesus, the Lamb of God. Earlier, John had spoken of the one to come after him whose sandal he was not worthy to untie. In this scene, John makes good on his rhetoric by sending his own disciples to follow the one he pointed out. By doing that, he acts like the perfect prophet and disciple. Recognizing and imitating the Master, John empties himself for the sake of leading others to God.
The Baptist called Jesus “the Lamb of God.” He is the only person in the Gospels to give Jesus that title, and we repeat it in every celebration of the Eucharist. What does it mean? The title must have been commonly understood among the early Christians because the Evangelist does nothing to explain it. The title Lamb of God has sacrificial overtones. It suggests that Jesus is the sacrifice God offers on behalf of humanity. It also calls to mind the sacrifice God provided when the angel prevented Abraham from slaughtering his son. The first time the Baptist used the title, he added, “who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), quite possibly a reference to the Servant Song of Isaiah 53. Although the Gospel of John never again uses that precise word for a lamb, John may have used it to refer to Jesus as the Passover Lamb of the New Covenant.
This Gospel uses three terms to describe Jesus: Lamb of God, Rabbi and Messiah. All three titles speak somehow of Jesus’ vocation. Throughout the Gospel, Jesus will act as a teacher or rabbi. The concept of what it means to be the Messiah will go through a process of clarification through the entire Gospel as the disciples come to understand what the title means according to Jesus’ own understanding and way of life. Together the three titles offer three different and complementary perspectives on Jesus’ vocation.
Finally, this reading presents two examples of how people enter into a life of discipleship. First, we see the disciples John sent to follow Jesus. Of them Jesus asks, “What do you seek?” Implying that they wanted to spend time with him, they asked where he lived, to which Jesus simply replied, “Come and see.” Whatever they saw in that one night was enough to convince Andrew to go tell his brother they had discovered the Messiah.
One thing we learn from this reading is that when someone encounters Jesus, the inevitable response is to tell others about it. Discipleship is thus understood as a willingness to seek, to be called forth and to be sent. Underneath it all is an attitude that seeks more than one already knows about the meaning of life. It implies an ongoing willingness to learn and to tell others what you have found. As we will see in all the Gospels, both learning and proclaiming who Jesus is will be the essential and ongoing dimensions of the life of discipleship.
I was teaching a course on Christology. Halfway through the semester, a student approached me after class. “Can I ask you a question,” he said.
“I’m a teacher and you’re a student, ask away.” “Do you have a personal relationship to Jesus?”
I looked at him. This was not a witch-hunt. He was genuinely interested. I was being offered an opportunity to testify. And the offer was specifically Christian. He was not asking about the activity of God in my life or my spiritual journey or how I understood a specific belief. He wanted to know about my relationship to Jesus.
I was silent. Finally, I said to him, “I don’t want to respond predict- ably or flippantly. I’d like to think about it and get back to you.”
In the past I had responded both ways—predictably and flippantly. In the Catholic world in which I grew up, the question was not about a personal relationship with Jesus but the more intellectual, “What think ye of the Christ?” I knew the Chalcedonian answer, and I spat it out with more conviction than understanding, “one divine person in two natures.” But I knew the student wanted more than this predict- able, Catholic, orthodox testimony. He wasn’t looking for my commit- ment to the Church’s conciliar degrees.
I had also offered flippant testimony. Years ago, I was lying on the North Avenue beach in Chicago in the late afternoon. The sun was beating down on me when all of a sudden, a shadow blocked the light. For a moment I thought it was a passing cloud, but then I opened my eyes and there were two young people standing over me.
They were well washed and groomed. He had on a white shirt and tie, and she wore a blouse and a skirt. They were carrying their shoes, and they each had a Bible in hand.
They looked down at me and asked, “Do you know the Lord Jesus as your personal savior?”
I looked up and answered without missing a beat, “Unfortunately, yes.”
I have always had a hard time with the Jesus of the Gospels. I do not completely understand much of what Jesus says and does. Needless to say, what I do understand I have great trouble living out. Yet there is this attraction. I keep returning—studying, praying, and trying to find through Jesus a passion and direction for my life. Combined with this, I projected onto the two questioners at the beach that sunny faith that feels it completely owns grace and insists everyone share its syrup. So, I put together “unfortunately” and “yes.” It was an attempt to be both honest to myself and disconcerting to them. It was not my best moment.
Now there was another chance to “bear witness to Jesus.” As I pondered the student’s question, I ran into the trickiness of testimony.
I had to distinguish where I was personally with Jesus from the plethora of images and ideas in the Christian tradition. Testimony was neither about adequacy to the Scriptures and tradition nor about what other people have said Jesus has meant for them. Testimony is searingly individual. There can be no hiding in the rhetoric or faith of others.
Nor is a one-word answer appropriate. To the pointed question, “Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus,” it is not enough to say “Yes” or “No.” And certainly it is high evasion to utter an offended, “Of course.” The point is not to state “where you are at” but to unfold the path, to tell the story of how you got to where you are at. When John the Baptist testifies, he tells of “not knowing” Jesus and how he came to recognize him. Of course, this is done in succinct, symbolic code, but it is still bearing witness to a process. Testimony should not rush to the conclusion. It should articulate the adventure.
Therefore, a presupposition for testimony is the ability to be congruent with inner perceptions and feelings and to be able to retrieve how they have changed and developed. This scrutiny has to be undertaken with uncompromising honesty. Sidestepping difficulties or shrugging off nagging doubts as part of the “struggle of faith” short circuits the full current of testimony. The first step of bearing witness is honest self-examination.
In my experience, honest self-examination leads to complexity. Recently, I came across a story about three people who arrived at the door of a spiritual teacher. He asked them all the same question: “Did you come to me because of others or because of yourself?” The first answered that he had been sent by others. He was dismissed. The second answered that he came on his accord. He also was dismissed. The third stammered that he had heard of him from others and yet he also thought he came on his own—partially out of curiosity, partially out of frustration, partially because he was addicted to searching, and probably out of a host of other motives of which he was not aware. The spiritual teacher said, “You’ll do.” The multilayered mind was accepted.
We do not know all the reasons that drive us. And certainly, I do not know all the reasons I am drawn to Jesus and struggle to follow him. I am complex and this complexity cannot be reduced to single-pointed clarity. One benefit of complexity is: if taken seriously, it inevitably brings humility. In relation to Jesus, there develops a “not knowing” that honors the mystery of attraction. I like to fantasize that part of John the Baptist’s “not knowing” of Jesus was the sheer complexity of the reasons he was attracted to him.
So, in my own mind, hallmarks of testimony began to develop— honest self-examination, sufficient complexity, and true humility. But what about the other side of testimony? Testimony is supposed to attract others to Jesus. Would my testimony, although true to myself, be too weak and vacillating and convoluted? Honest complexity to me might be muddle to someone else. Would my witness turn people away from Christ rather than draw them close? Would I turn into a negative witness? After hearing me, would they look elsewhere?
Slowly, I came to see this worry should not occupy too much thought and time. The more I thought about “reception” the more it hooked my ego and turned my testimony toward performance. I was rehearsing what I was going to say, editing for audience effect. I was compromising the struggle to be faithful to what I was thinking and feeling. So, I stopped thinking about how to package my relationship to Jesus. (This is a difficult discipline for a teacher and writer.) It would have to be enough to speak the only truth I knew.
About a week after the student asked me the question, I asked him to walk me back to my office after class. I told him the type of scrutiny his question had triggered in me, and then I launched into my relationship with Jesus. To my surprise, I found myself saying that the Gospel stories about Jesus continue to connect my spirit to the Spirit. Jesus effectively baptizes me with the Spirit. Although I was in line with John the Baptist, I did not know if I wanted to say this is the only way to encounter the Spirit of God. But one thing for sure, it had been my way.
I looked at the student. He had gotten more than he had bargained for. He seemed embarrassed. Was he more attracted to Jesus? Or was he in the same place he was before I testified? Or was he repelled? I couldn’t tell, and he didn’t say. Ah, the continuing trickiness of testimony.