What Do You Seek? An Excerpt from "Answering the Questions of Jesus"

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In Answering the Questions of Jesus, EWTN host and Franciscan Friar Fr Andrew Apostoli reflects on each of the questions asked by Jesus and gently guides you into a deeper understanding of the wisdom of who He is and what He is asking of you.

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It’s so important to know where to find Jesus in our lives; but do we really understand what (and Whom) we’re looking for? This is the question that we find Jesus asking two of His future Apostles: “What do you seek?” (John 1:38).

This story takes place after Jesus’ Baptism by St. John the Baptist in the Jordan River. The Baptism of Jesus marks the end of His hidden life at Nazareth. Let’s start exploring this question of Jesus by exploring His Baptism.

The baptism of John was not our sacramental Baptism. John’s baptism could not take away sins; only Jesus’ Baptism can, because Jesus has the power to forgive sins. John’s baptism was just a sign of a new life of repentance.

But Jesus came for John’s baptism even though He had no sins to repent of. John even says, “I need to be baptized by you” (Matthew 3:14). Our Lord insisted, though, and went down into the waters of the Jordan — waters that had become spiritually polluted by the sins of those who had confessed and repented there. Jesus took those sins upon Himself. As Isa­iah the prophet said, He “has borne” our sins (Isaiah 53:4); that is why He suffered.

As He did this, He purified the waters and gave them, in His Baptism, the power to take away sins. To this day, if a priest or deacon baptizes using water from the Jordan River, he doesn’t have to bless the water, since it was blessed by Christ two thousand years ago.

As Jesus emerged from His Baptism, two things happened. First, a voice spoke out: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). The Father is speaking, revealing His Son. At the same time, St. John tells us that he saw the Holy Spirit descend as a dove and land on Jesus (John 1:32). In other words, Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit for His mission as the Messiah (which means “anointed one”). He was now filled with the Holy Spirit to bring to others in His mission as the Savior of the world.

It’s with that background that we pick up the story in the Gospel of John:

The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples; and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, “What do you seek?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying; and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. (John 1:35–39)

These two disciples of John the Baptist are my patron saint: St. Andrew the Apostle and an unnamed man traditionally assumed to be St. John the Apostle. When the Baptist points out Jesus as the Messiah, they leave the Baptist and begin to follow Jesus.

Note what Andrew and John say when the Lord asks what they’re looking for: they ask where He is staying. Isn’t that what we should be looking for, too — to find out where we can find Jesus and be with Him? And in response He gives that beautiful invitation: “Come and see.”

From this moment on, Andrew and John stayed with Jesus. The Old Testament practice was that dis­ciples stayed with their rabbi, their teacher, as long as the rabbi could teach them something, at which point they would go out on their own to become rabbis in their own right. But when it comes to be­ing a disciple of Jesus, we don’t leave Him. We don’t leave His message, which is inexhaustible. We don’t start teaching our own truths or our own opinions. We must always teach what the Lord has given us. We must always remain with Him, just as Andrew and John did. It’s by being with Jesus that we too are transformed.

Looking for — and Finding — Jesus

What if Jesus asked you what you were looking for? What would you answer Him?

Let’s use Mass as an example. What are we looking for in the Mass? Are we just fulfilling an obligation? That’s not a really deep motivation, is it? We must seek the Person of Jesus!

Maybe we just go to church out of routine, hardly ever considering why we’re showing up at Mass each Sunday. A group once told me that their church always has a big crowd for the Saturday evening Mass because people want to get to the restaurants first that evening. That’s a sign we’re following something or someone else ahead of Jesus.

We must seek the real reason for going to Mass: to share in Jesus’ Sacrifice at the altar and to worship the Lord. The first purpose of our worship is to adore God. We adore Him for Who He is: all good and worthy of all of our love. Secondly, we seek His mercy because we are sorry for our sins. We express that sorrow knowing that in the Mass God bestows His grace of mercy upon us. And lastly, in worship we give thanks to God for His blessings.

These three reasons to seek God in the Mass — adoration, contrition, and thanksgiving — are really three of the purposes of all prayer. We can also add a fourth: prayer to petition God for the things we really need for ourselves, for our families, for our mission in life, and for the life of the Church: prayers for vocations to the priesthood and religious life, for our clergy, for the Holy Father and the bishops, for missions, for conversion, and for peace in the world and an end of the culture of death. For these and other concerns in our life, we must seek God first.

There are so many reasons why we should want to come to Jesus; this question helps us to deepen our understanding of our reasons for seeking Him. Let’s see what happens after the initial encounter with Jesus:

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” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter). (John 1:40–42)

Andrew’s reaction to being with Jesus was not only to stay with Him that day, but to go out and become a wonderful recruiter. (Bishop Fulton Sheen referred to St. Andrew as the public-relations man among the Apostles.) This is important: we can’t bring people to Jesus if we don’t know where to find Him. How can we bring people to the Eucharist if we ourselves do not appreciate Jesus’ presence in that Eucharist? We have to know the Lord and where to find Him so we can bring others to Him. That’s what Andrew did.

What will we do after going to Mass on Sunday, for example? Will we go out and share the message of Jesus with others? Has our experience at Mass changed us and made us want to be better disciples of Jesus? If it has, we have something very important to bring to the world. If it hasn’t, we’ve missed what it’s all about.

Many people say they don’t “get anything” out of Mass. Bishop Sheen used to say that’s because they didn’t put anything into it! We have to put our love into our worship. We have to look for Jesus and stay with Him, as Andrew and John did. We have the mission to bring people to Jesus, but we have to experience change within ourselves in order to become true evangelists. That’s why it’s very important for us not to forget that we are disciples of Jesus.

One of the greatest saints in the history of the Church is St. Bernard of Clairvaux. He used to bring so many recruits to the religious life that a saying about him developed: “When Bernard came around to preach, the mothers hid their sons, the girlfriends hid their boyfriends, and the wives hid their husbands.” He had a little sign on his desk, though, to remind him to examine his motivations and remember his true mission: “Bernard, why have you come here?”

We need to keep asking ourselves this question, because once we find what we’re looking for — a relationship with the living God — we have to preserve it. How do we do that? We build on it every day, through prayer and acts of love. Remember the words of Yogi Berra: “It ain’t over till it’s over.” Our discipleship is not over until Jesus calls us. Then we will be with the Lord and He will say to us the words He says in the Gospel: “Well done, good and faithful servant; . . . enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:23).

Those are the words each one of us should be long­ing to hear from Jesus. Imagine: to be in His presence for all eternity. And that eternity can begin right now as we seek the Lord and get to know Him. If we tell the Lord, as Andrew and John did, that we want to know where He is staying, the Lord will invite us to come and be with Him.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  • Do I stay with Jesus always, or do I follow other teachers — the culture, the media, and other distractions — when it is convenient?
  • How can I prepare myself better for Mass as an encounter with Jesus, not just an obligation?
  • What opportunities do I have in my daily life to bring people to Jesus?
  • How would I respond to this question of Jesus if it were addressed directly to me: “What do you seek?”

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father_apostoliCopyright 2016 Fr. Andrew Apostoli, CFR. Excerpt from Answering the Questions of Jesus reprinted with the kind permission of Sophia Institute Press.

About the author: Fr. Andrew Apostoli, a founding member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, has been teaching and preaching retreats and parish missions for several decades. He is the author of numerous books, and is the vice-postulator for the cause for the canonization of Archbishop Fulton Sheen. He also is an EWTN Global Catholic Network host.

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