What are the first words Jesus is recorded saying in John’s Gospel? You’d have thought that was a reasonably important question. The Eternal Word made flesh who comes from heaven to be born as one of us – what is the first thing he says to us human beings?
We are given the answer to that question in today’s gospel. Look very carefully again at the passage we’ve just heard. The first thing Jesus says is not a piece of important teaching. It is not a declaration about who he is. It isn’t a word of healing or cure. Jesus’ first words to us are a question. That question is this: What are you seeking?
There’s something very important going on in the exchange we witness today. On one level, the gospel writer John is recounting to us the first few incidents in the public ministry of Jesus. We see interaction with those whom he calls – first of all Peter and Andrew; but also John the Baptist who hails him as the Lamb of God.
But on another level, something else is being recounted. For we see here something of what happens whenever Jesus calls anyone…a sort of blue print of what it feels like to meet and encounter Christ in any age and in any place – you and me included.
What I mean is this. Whenever anyone meets Christ – be that for the first time or the one thousand and first time – he asks us the same question. What are you seeking? When we come to him in faith for the first time. What are you seeking? When we are baptized…what are you seeking? When we come to Mass each week…what are you are seeking? When we open the pages of the scriptures…what are you seeking?
One of the things our Christian faith tells us is that the human person is made by God and intended to experience his presence for ever in heaven. St Augustine put it most memorably. He said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.” Human beings were made to yearn for God.
So thinking about the question of what we seek and yearn for is very important. When we live as we should, the answer to that question is very simple. I seek Christ.
But all too often, we live lives slightly out of kilter with how they should be. We allow career, or social position, or money to become the thing we put most effort into seeking.
Or we are challenged by so many problems and difficulties in life, that we forget to seek anything other than surviving with wits in tact to the next day.
But where does this question that Christ asks us lead? According to our gospel reading this morning it leads to another question, one asked of Jesus.
“Where are you staying?”
“Come and see,” Jesus replies.
Jesus does not promise a series of easy answers that suddenly make sense of life. He invites you and me to begin a journey of discovery with him – to come and see what being with him is like. A pilgrimage of faith through life in his company.
In other words, Jesus invites us to enter into a relationship with him in which he will always be present. He invites us to stay with him, to remain with him through the things that make sense to us in life, and the bits that don’t; in the bad times and the good; in the seasons of our existence when God seems close and in the periods he seems distant or dead.
So remember those words of Jesus today: What are you seeking? Come and see.
Fr Peter Anthony