At the beginning of another year it is good to stop and ask, ‘What am I looking for?’ We can answer it in one of two ways: ‘What do I think I should be looking for?’ or ‘What does the evidence of my choices and actions reveal about what I really want?’ The great St. Augustine said this: “You must be dissatisfied with the way you are now, if you ever want to get to where you are not yet.” John’s gospel is a gospel of quest stories, of people looking for something and discovering Christ. The first words from Jesus in that gospel are, “What are you looking for?” This is a fundamental question that’s addressed to all who seek God.

John’s two disciples had been following Jesus and, like typical Irish people, responded to his question by asking another, “Where are you staying?” With whom do you abide? Where is your home? To this question Jesus didn’t give them his address. He invited them to “Come and See.” There’s already something personal and trusting going on between them. Jesus is inviting them to come and experience who he is. John’s Gospel, and indeed his Letters, are designed to lead the listener to a divine encounter. “What we have seen and heard we are telling you so that you too may be in union with us . . . .” 1 John 1: 3.

Some 70 or more years ago Karl Rahner SJ, perhaps the greatest theologian of the 20th century, wrote: “The serious Christian of the future will either be a mystic, one who has experienced something, or they will cease to be anything at all.” I think this is a key insight into our time. What did he mean by being a mystic – levitating, seeing visions, hearing messages?? Or something else altogether? The great theologian suggests it has to do with experiencing ‘something’. And he tells us elsewhere that God communicates not by sending a message but by forming a relationship where his word is heard.

The stories and conversations we find in sacred scripture are meant to draw us into them so we become part of the drama. We are not meant to listen to them ‘from the outside’ as if learning something about implementing the moral virtues or the commandments. Many, through lack of spiritual understanding, settle for that. Rahner reminds us that the word of God speaks to us not directly off the page as many fundamentalists believe. It means that if we enter the story together and feel the flow of its arguments, get stuck in its points of tension, and struggle with its twists and turns, God’s word will be heard. God’s voice is heard in and through the community of believers. Jesus invites us to community.

Fr. QQ – 01/10/2024





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