A couple of weeks ago, Father Paul mentioned that he and I would be talking to you about Archbishop Smith’s first address in the “Nothing More Beautiful” series. Two weeks ago, Fr. Paul used the readings on marriage to talk about Archbishop Smith’s discussion of the image and likeness of God. Today, I will speak about the first part of Archbishop Smith’s talk, so it’s a bit backward.
The first words Archbishop Smith used to introduce the entire “Nothing More Beautiful” series were taken from Pope John Paul II. They were a bit confusing for me the first few times I read them, so I’ll say them twice: “Jesus Christ is the answer to the question that is every human life.” “Jesus Christ is the answer to the question that is every human life.” You know, it’s one of those statements that sounds like it must be true, but it’s hard to figure out just what it means. The Archbishop must have understood that, because he continued by reading a story from John’s Gospel (John 1:35-42): “The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah.’ Then he brought Simon to Jesus.”
It’s kind of a funny exchange between Jesus and these two disciples of John the Baptist. They didn’t know Jesus, but they just started following him. And when Jesus turned around, he didn’t say: “Hey, why are you guys following me?” He said: “What are you looking for?” Now, I think they must have been confused by the question, because they didn’t really answer it. All they said was: “Where are you staying?” And when Jesus said: “Come and see,” he was saying that he would answer their question about where he was staying, but he would also answer his own question about what they were looking for. During the time he spent with them (the reading says “they remained with him that day”), he showed them what they were looking for – the deepest desire of their hearts – they were looking for Jesus. And they were so convinced that Jesus was the answer to their question that one of them – Andrew – rushed to tell his brother Simon Peter that they had found the Messiah. And we know that they dropped what they were doing and followed Jesus – not just for an afternoon, but forever. That must have been an amazing visit.
What are you looking for? What is the deepest desire of your heart? When I ask you that question here, the answer is pretty obvious. We see our Saviour hanging on the cross. We see the altar where he will become present in the bread and wine. But I think the question is still worth asking: what are you looking for? Why are you here? Are you here because you have to be – because it’s one of the commandments? Are you here because it’s important to give your children or grandchildren a good example, or because your parents or grandparents made you come? Are you here because your friends are here, and it feels good being with your friends? All of these are good reasons.
Or are you here because the deepest desire of your heart is to have a profound and life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ? The sort of encounter that Andrew and the other disciple had in the reading from John’s Gospel – the sort of encounter that will affect us in all parts of our lives.
Well let’s think about that. Let me change the question a little bit. Most of us are only here in church for an hour or so each week. You spend a lot of time at home, at school, at work. What are you looking for there? What are the deepest desires of your heart at home, at school, at work? When we’re at work, we have to think about sales, service, productivity, profit, growth – and that’s good and important – but is that all? When we’re at school we have to think about assignments, tests, friends, popularity, fashion – but is that all?
Can you imagine getting ready for work in the morning and saying: “Today at work, I want to have a profound encounter with Jesus Christ?” Can you imagine getting ready for school and saying: “Today at school, I want to have a profound encounter with Jesus Christ?” You know that we can see Jesus in our co-workers, in our clients and customers, in our fellow students, in our teachers. But we can also be Jesus to all of those people. We can be that life-changing answer to the questions in the hearts of everyone we meet.
This is the ultimate goal of the Archbishop’s plan – that we will bring the beauty of Jesus to everyone we meet. But in his wisdom, he understands that we must first re-acquaint ourselves with Jesus. We have to open ourselves to a fresh, new encounter that will make us change – will make us different.
Well, how do we do that? That’s always the hard part. I put a couple of questions in the Bulletin related to this issue and asked you to consider them. I asked you to think about the main goals in your life, and asked if you have a goal that relates to your relationship with God. I asked you to think about a life where you’ve accomplished all or most of your material goals and whether that would be satisfying if you didn’t have a strong relationship with God – or would you be left saying: “Is that all there is?” Miguel will be leading a discussion Monday/ tomorrow night at 7:00 to talk about those questions and others that you may have. I encourage you to be there.
Pope Benedict said: “There is nothing more beautiful than knowing Jesus Christ and telling others of our friendship with him.” Archbishop Smith is urging us to have a new encounter with Jesus – to ask ourselves what it is we’re looking for – to accept the invitation of Jesus to “come and see.” And he does this knowing that through this encounter we will find that Jesus is, indeed, the answer to the question that is every human life.