When the disciples who followed Him wanted to know where He was staying, Our Lord affectionately said to them: “Come and you will see.” He also makes this invitation to us, eager to reveal His most intimate desires and thoughts.
Gospel – 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
35 John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” 37 The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus. 38 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?” 39 He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they went and saw where Jesus was staying, and they stayed with Him that day. It was about four in the afternoon.
40 Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” — which is translated Christ —. 42 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 (Jn 1:35-42).
I – Called to Follow the Lord More Closely
After closing the Christmas cycle with the celebration of the Baptism of Our Lord, Holy Church opens for us the doors of Ordinary Time, inviting us on this Second Sunday to follow Jesus more closely, to abide with Him, to mould our spirit in accordance with His.
The first reading (1 Sam 3:3-10, 19) teaches us how to respond well to this summons by describing the beginning of Samuel’s vocation, called at the age of nine to be a prophet of Israel. The final verse contains a very beautiful tribute to this child, who was ready to fulfil the will of the Lord entirely, “not permitting any word of His to be without effect” (1 Sam 3:19).
In the second reading (1 Cor 6:13-15, 17-20), even more cogent, profound and full of substance, St. Paul gives a serious warning about the responsibility that falls to us as baptized persons: we must preserve not only our souls but also our bodies from sin, for these are “members of Christ” and “a temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 6:15, 19). It is therefore a matter of conforming all aspects of our lives to the principles that nourish and govern our relationship with God.
In this sense the Gospel is very clear, as will be seen below. Seeing Jesus pass by in the distance, St. John the Baptist proclaims: “Behold the Lamb of God.” At the Precursor’s words, the voice of grace echoes in the hearts of John and Andrew, who immediately follow the Saviour. “Teacher, where are You staying?” the two disciples ask Him. And in this question, so simple in appearance, is summed up the invitation that the Liturgy makes to us today.
II – Our Lord Manifests Himself to Those Who Seek Him
St. John the Evangelist opens his account of Jesus’ life with three statements made by St. John the Baptist about the Messiah, pronounced on consecutive days to different listeners (cf. Jn 1:19-36). These verses show how much the Beloved Disciple, who had the Precursor as his teacher, was acquainted with the extraordinary power of his word.
The passage from the fourth Gospel contemplated this Sunday presents the last of these testimonies and marks the beginning of Our Lord’s public mission, which draws the first followers to Him.
In an apogee of mystical graces
35 John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”
The scene is described by one of its witnesses: the Apostle St. John himself, as commentators generally admit, who hides his identity under the veils of humility. Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, accompanies him.
The expression “again John stood” [DR version] refers to the Precursor’s declarations recorded in the preceding verses. However, the fulminating effect of John the Baptist’s brief phrase, described immediately afterwards, leads to the assumption that he had long prepared those disciples for the encounter with the Messiah. Perhaps he had even promised to point Him out, when an opportunity arose.
The two were probably part of a nucleus of more admiring, ardent and eager followers, whose questions about the Expectation of the Nations had enabled the Precursor to narrate the beginning of his mission during Our Lady’s visit to St. Elizabeth, to tell of the marvels he knew about Jesus, and to transmit the inspirations that grace inflamed within him.
These communications were reaching a crescendo, and on that day John must have noticed that a special situation had been created by Providence. No doubt it was at the height of the conversation, when the mystical graces reached a true peak, that he exclaimed: “Behold, the Lamb of God.”
Flexibility to the divine call
37The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.
At that very instant, Andrew and John bid farewell to their former teacher and, accepting the invitation of grace, accompany Our Lord. St. John the Baptist seizes this opportunity to transfer to Jesus all the enthusiasm that both of them had for him, for he was an exemplary apostle and faithful in making restitution.
They are not moved by mere curiosity, but it is the profound action of the Holy Spirit in their souls that seizes them. If the company and teachings of the Precursor had already captivated them and filled them with enthusiasm, how could they resist the attraction exerted by the Man of whom he had come to bear witness, and whose sandals he did not consider himself worthy to untie (cf. Jn 1:27)?
We have here an impressive example of how flexible we must be to the call that grace makes each day in our hearts to follow the Divine Lamb.
An encounter prepared from all eternity
38a Jesus turned and saw them following Him and said to them, “What are you looking for?”
At first, the two follow Him from afar; then they quicken their pace in order to draw closer. Perceiving their presence, Our Lord turns to them and addresses them. It is the first time that the voice of the Redeemer is heard in the Gospel of St. John.
“What are you looking for?” He asks them. Rather than seeking an answer, which as God He already knew, Jesus wished to give those disciples the opportunity to strengthen their ties with Him and, above all, to clarify for themselves what they were seeking.
It is worth remembering that this scene was not the result of chance. From all eternity the Divine Word had chosen John and Andrew, and planned the circumstances in which that encounter would take place. And the same is true of us. With eternal affection Our Lord chose us, and on countless occasions in our lives takes the initiative to speak within us. For this to happen, He requires only one condition: that we open our souls to His grace.
Where the Teacher stays
38bThey said to Him, “Rabbi” — which translated means Teacher —, “where are You staying?”
By calling him “Rabbi,” St. John and St. Andrew express their desire to be His disciples, to learn His doctrine and to follow His spiritual school. And this aspiration is corroborated by the question: “Where are You staying?”
In fact, did the two of them desire only to know the place where Jesus lived? It seems unlikely, for later He himself would declare: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay His head” (Mt 8:20). In reality, they both hoped to visit the Divine Master many times and to share His company, for at that time learning took place primarily through social intercourse.
Furthermore, however, the question “Where are You staying?” has a profound mystical meaning, related to another statement of Our Lord: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Lk 12:34). We live where we place our attention, our delight and our interests.
Thus, the question of the two disciples could be expressed as follows: “Master, at what heights are your thoughts, what paths do your desires follow, what region does your Spirit occupy, where does your Soul rest? This is what we wish to know!”
Since He is the Incarnate Word, He could only dwell in the highest places… His Soul, created in the Beatific Vision and hypostatically united with the divinity, never abandoned this sublime perspective, even at the moments when the God-Man contemplated the lilies of the field, entertained Himself with a child or slept in the boat.
The reward reserved for those who seek Him
39 He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they went and saw where Jesus was staying, and they stayed with Him that day. It was about four in the afternoon.
Our Lord does not give them directions to a physical dwelling, but invites them to remain with Him. If St. John the Baptist had come to make the paths straight, to lower the hills and to fill in the valleys (cf. Lk 3:4-5) in order to lead souls to the Messiah, it was now up to Him to continue the work of the Precursor, revealing to those disciples His goals, His methods, His thinking and His mentality.
The Evangelist makes a point of highlighting one detail: “It was about four in the afternoon.” According to the time used by the Jews of that period, it was about the tenth hour, a number which in the Sacred Scriptures symbolizes fullness. Therefore, on the clocks of Providence there had sounded the hour of a complete manifestation, a true epiphany of the Saviour of Israel.
According to the customs then in effect, it is probable that the fortunate disciples remained that night with Jesus, for it was not long before sunset. In a relaxed and intimate ambience, they must have riddled their Host with questions. Our Lord answered everything and, while He instructed them through human language, through divine action He worked their souls with new graces, so that they might become more and more interested in the subjects addressed.
The material transmitted by the Master was incomparably loftier, more attractive and profound than that which they had learned from St. John the Baptist. They were both ecstatic at the panoramas He opened. Above all, they were impressed by the Person of Our Lord Jesus Christ, His gestures, His gaze! Although they did not yet discern His divinity, He was such an extraordinary Man, so different from any other they knew, so pervaded with grace, that the two no doubt concluded: “We have found the Messiah.” Perhaps they asked Jesus a categorical question in this regard, and He would not have dismissed them without a clear answer that would strengthen their faith.
Unfortunately, the pages of history have not recorded the content of that blessed conversation… What is certain is that, departing from there, St. Andrew hurried to transmit the good news to his brother.
Whoever discovers where Jesus dwells desires to lead others to Him
40Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. 41He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” — which is translated Christ —.
St. John and St. Andrew could have kept the great discovery to themselves. However, since good is eminently diffusive,1 the proof that someone has found the Lord is his dedication to the apostolate with others in order to save them.
And we must do likewise: when we discover where Jesus “is staying” in a particular aspect of His doctrine, mentality or way of being, let us try immediately to lead those who are close to us to follow the same path and thus to be with Him.
42 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.
Once again it strikes us that a simple phrase moved St. Peter to seek the Master, as St. John and St. Andrew had done, without raising any objection. Even more so in the case of the first Pope, who would prove so inquisitive and reluctant in other circumstances (cf. Mt 16:22; 18:21; Mk 14:29-31; Jn 13:6-9). The readiness with which he answers his brother’s call allows us to suppose that he was already waiting for the news about the Messiah.
Families were large at that time, and in all probability Andrew had other brothers. Therefore, the fact that he sought Simon is not only due to the fact that charity begins at home… The future Prince of the Apostles had also been formed by St. John the Baptist, and, knowing that the promised Redeemer had already appeared in Israel (cf. Jn 1:26), he was anxiously awaiting the moment to meet Him.
Perhaps those three disciples had made a pact that as soon as one of them found the Messiah, he would immediately identify Him to the others. In this case, St. Andrew’s succinct statement would merely have been the final answer to a question developed in lengthy conversations.
III – Where Does Jesus Live Today?
“O testimonium animæ naturaliter christianæ,”2 rightly exclaims Tertullian. Naturally Christian, the human soul soars in pursuit of Our Lord, for it was created for Him. There is in the heart of man a supernatural perception which, in the most varied circumstances, allows him to say: “Jesus dwells here.” It is a question, then, of being faithful to that unmistakable mark of Christianity engraved in us, thereby making it ever more robust.
But there is something more. We, the children of the Holy Church, have the extraordinary grace to discover with certainty where Jesus dwells. How? Let us listen to the words full of unction of Dr. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira, a man who indelibly marked the 20th century with his faith:
“In her institutions, in her doctrine, in her laws, in her unity, in her universality, in her unsurpassable catholicity, the Church is a true mirror in which our Divine Saviour is reflected. Above all, the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ. And we, all of us, have the grace of belonging to the Church, of being living stones of the Church! How we ought to give thanks for this favour!”3
Yes, in the one and only true Church of Christ, indefectible in her morality, immutable in her dogmas, exemplary in her saints, integral in her opposition to the “ruler of this world” (Jn 16:11), we find the mentality of Our Lord Jesus Christ, His words, His desires and His sentiments.
Let us accept then the invitation He makes to us – “Come and you will see” – and let us seek Him where, in fact, He is. To do this we need only to imitate the readiness of John and Andrew, and to open ourselves entirely to the influence of the Holy Church.
In this sense, Dr. Plinio continues:
“Let us not forget, however, that noblesse oblige.4 Belonging to the Church is a very great and very demanding thing. We must think as the Church thinks, have the Mind of the Church, proceed as the Church wishes in all the circumstances of our lives. This supposes a real Catholic sense, an authentic and complete purity of customs, and a profound and sincere piety. In other words it supposes the sacrifice of an entire lifetime. And what is the reward? Christianus alter Christus.5 I will be in an eminent way a reproduction of Christ himself. The likeness of Christ, vivid and sacred, will be imprinted on my own soul.”6
Jesus makes His dwelling within those who strive to discover where He lives. So, in closing these lines, let us turn to Our Redeemer and show Him our desire to follow Him:
“‘Rabbi, where are You staying?’ Andrew and John asked You. And You answered: ‘Come and you will see!’ Today the world does not wish to know where You live, and if it did, it would perhaps seek to destroy it. In reparation, Lord, I invite You to stay with me. Come, Lord, and remain in me! My heart is entirely Yours, come in and take charge of it!’” ◊
1 Cf. ST. THOMAS AQUINAS. Summa Theologiæ. I, q.5, a.4, ad 2.
2 TERTULLIAN. Apologeticum, c.XVII: PL 1, 377. From the Latin: “O the testimony of the soul, by nature Christian.”
3 CORRÊA DE OLIVEIRA, Plinio. Via-Sacra. VI Station. In: Catolicismo. Campos dos Goytacazes. Year I. N.3 (Mar., 1951); p.4.
4 From the French, literally: “nobility obligates.” An expression used to indicate that an elevated state demands that one’s conduct be in keeping with it.
5 From the Latin: “The Christian is another Christ.”
6 CORRÊA DE OLIVEIRA, op. cit., p.4-5.