The Divine Q&A by Rev. Paul Scalia
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.
John was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watch Jesus walk by, he said, "Behold, the Lamb of God." The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus. 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?" 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. Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. He first found his own brother Simon and told him, "We have found the Messiah" - which is translated Christ. 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.
Whenever we encounter a question from our Lord, we should keep in mind this simple rule: He asks questions not for His sake, but for ours. As God He knows our every thought. He knows our every word before we even speak. He is closer to us than we are to ourselves. He already knows the answer to every question He asks. But He asks nonetheless - not because He needs to know, but because we need to reflect on the question and discover the answer.
So it is with our Lord's first words in John's Gospel. He asks the disciples, "What do you seek?" (Jn 1:38). Of course, He knows very well what they seek. He knows better than they do. He asks the question so that they will think more about what they seek and will discover what their hearts truly desire. By reflecting on what they seek, they will know themselves and our Lord better.
"What do you seek?" The question confronts us with a truth about ourselves: we seek something. Man is a creature that seeks. Indeed, we can understand all of history - the art, philosophy, theology, science, politics, etc. - as the story of man's longing and searching for happiness. Man hungers and thirsts. He spends his life trying to satisfy the hunger, to quench the thirst - to find what he seeks. This search characterizes each of us.
We cause great damage to ourselves when we answer our Lord's question incorrectly. Many mistakenly think that what they seek - what will satisfy their longing - is worldly comfort, wealth or power. And so they spend their lives (and often ruin their lives) by pursuing such things, only to find that in the end they do not satisfy. To keep us from this danger, our Lord stops us and forces us to reexamine what the human heart truly desires. "What do you seek?"
When we answer this question honestly we must confess that nothing in the world can satisfy our longing. Comfort, wealth and power can numb the hunger of the heart (and that is their grave danger), but they cannot satisfy it. Even the healthy, rich and powerful have a longing in their hearts (although they may have learned to keep it at bay). The human heart longs for more than this world offers. Certain aspects of this world may be pleasing, but none of them - and not even all of them together - can satisfy. One of man's greatest accomplishments is to realize that this world is not sufficient for him.
"What do you seek?" Ultimately our Lord's question is an exhortation to examine ourselves and to understand that the longing in our hearts was placed there by God Himself and is fulfilled only by Him. God gave us this desire precisely so that we will seek Him and not rest until we have found Him. He Himself - and He alone - satisfies our longing. Whether we realize it or not, He is the One we seek. "You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You" (St. Augustine).
In the gospel of John our Lord begins with this question: "What do you seek?" He provokes reflection so that we can better receive His answer. And in the remainder of that Gospel He provides the answer - He reveals Himself as the fulfillment of all we seek. Because we hunger He says, "I am the bread of life." Because we seek guidance He says, "I am the light of the world." Because we seek the correct way to live He says, "I am the way, the truth and the life." Because we long for eternity He says, "I am the Resurrection and the life." What does every human heart seek? Nothing less that the Lord Himself. "God along satisfies" (St. Thomas Aquinas).
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