There are deep magnetic forces at work in the Gospel of John. As we read this great masterpiece we realise that we are divinely drawn rather than humanly propelled towards God. In the other Gospels we see Jesus ambling along the lakeshore calling his disciples to follow him. But in John it’s different. Here we have people on the lookout for things divine, for Jesus and for God. The first great magnet is John the Baptist. This man of God has raised expectations about the coming of the Messiah. People have responded wholeheartedly. They flock towards him, all willing to confess their sins and wanting to start a new life. But then we notice two disciples who are particularly close to John. It’s one thing to be listening to John as part of the crowd, but to be walking with him, getting prime time, is another matter. Perhaps there is an ulterior motive here, namely, stay close to John increases your chances of meeting the ‘Promised One’.
One thing is for sure. They had no difficulty letting go of John when Jesus arrived on the scene. Once John pointed out the Lamb of God, they quickly turned around and followed Jesus – as if John never existed anymore. Here we discover the greatness of John. From a human point of view this can’t have been a good day for John. Losing two of his close disciples must have hurt somehow. But John doesn’t complain. He simply allows himself to fade into the background. His mission is simply to open a door for others to gain access to Jesus and then fall back. His own words sum it all up. “He must increase, I must decrease.”
Eli in the first reading shows the same largesse of spirit. As a well-established prophet he might have concluded that the Lord would speak with him rather than the young Samuel, a mere boy whose sole duty was to keep the light in the sanctuary burning. But once Eli understood that the Lord was addressing Samuel, he did not hesitate to direct the young boy as to how to respond to the Lord. Eli too was willing to open a door for Samuel by admonishing him to listen to the Lord. Samuel took his advice well. As he grew up we are told that the Lord was with him and he didn’t let any of the Lord’s words fall to the ground.
The door that the Baptist opened for his two disciples was a whole new day – and a whole new way of living. More than likely they didn’t understand what’s going on, but they felt drawn to follow this mysterious figure. For a while, they walk in silence, not saying a word. They’re following someone unknown without knowing exactly why or where. Jesus breaks the silence with a question: “What do you want?” These are the first spoken words of Jesus in John’s gospel and they are addressed, not just to the two disciples, but also to all of us. What do we want? What is our deepest heart’s desire? The evangelist is inviting us to take Jesus as our teacher, to accept Jesus’ invitation to ‘come and see’ and to stay with him. And if we do so we will realise that yes, Jesus is indeed our heart’s desire.
Come, see and stay! These are the key words. Only in this way can we experience Jesus up close and personal. “Come to live with me”, Jesus is saying, “and you will discover how I live, from where I direct my life, to whom I’m dedicated, why I live this way.” To take up this invitation is decisive. Millions of people say they’re Christians, but they haven’t experienced a true contact with Jesus. They don’t know how he lived; they’re ignorant of his project. They don’t learn anything special from him. Nor are they aware of how attractive, different and interesting he is.
‘They stayed with him the rest of the day.’ The verb the evangelist uses for staying and remaining with Jesus is the same word he already used when telling us that the Holy Spirit remained on Jesus in verse 32. Jesus is in fact staying with God, close to the Father’s heart. To stay with Jesus then is also to share in the very intimacy of God.
The invitation to come, see and stay can only transform us for the better. We see immediate results in Andrew. Just as the Baptist opened the door for him, now he opens the door for his brother Simon. We are told it was the first thing he did after staying with Jesus fully convinced that Jesus was the Messiah and immediately brings Simon to meet Jesus.
We could probably all identify a John the Baptist or an Andrew or an Eli in our own lives, people who, in some way or another, brought us to the Lord, or helped us to recognize and receive the Lord who was present to us. Let’s be eternally grateful for such good people, be they our parents, teachers, friends or whoever. As we take up once again the invitation to come, to see and to stay with the good Lord, let’s be aware and alert to the fact that he may well be asking us to open doors for others into the loving and compassionate heart of Jesus.
Sunday, 18th January 2015