Our Advantage Over the Apostles
User's Guide to Sunday, Jan. 18
Editor's Note: This is a longer version of what appeared in print.
Sunday, Jan. 18, is the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B).
1 Samuel 3:3-10, 19; Psalm 40:2, 4, 7-10; 1 Corinthians 6:13-15, 17-20; John 1:35-42
When we hear a Gospel like today’s, we might wish we had the advantage the apostles had. “Come and see,” said Jesus. “So they went and saw where Jesus was staying, and they stayed with him that day.”
They got to spend time with Jesus, traveling and talking. They got to know what he was really like.
But perhaps we forget that the Gospels apply to us, too. Are we really that worse off than the apostles? Is it really impossible for us to “Come and see,” as they did?
At first, it would seem that we know our friends better than Jesus, because we can converse with them and visit them.
We spend time with our friends, in some cases, every week; with others, maybe once a quarter or less. But we can spend time with Jesus every day — in prayer, in Mass or in adoration.
We can read our friends’ social-media status updates or emails — but these are very surface-level words. In contrast, the words of Scripture speak to our hearts and reveal new depths whenever we encounter them.
Our friends, we know, love and appreciate us; but Jesus, we know, created us and died for us.
Our friends are not available to talk to us 24/7 — but Jesus is.
When we talk to our friends and family, we communicate only partially and incompletely. The play Our Town shows this dramatically, when a young woman gets the opportunity to return to special moments in her life after she dies. She finds it unbearably superficial. “Live people don't understand, do they?” she tells others in the afterlife. “They’re sort of shut up in little boxes, aren’t they?”
It is true: We are often preoccupied in our daily lives with others, and we communicate partially and distractedly. But with the grace of prayer, we can communicate with Jesus deeply, heart to heart. It is often easier to talk to our friends, that’s true. Speaking with Jesus requires patience, quiet and attention. But that patience and quiet pay off in extraordinary ways.
Our relationship with Jesus has an advantage over our friendship with our friends, too: religion. We often think of religion as something extraneous, less authentic than our personal relationships. But that isn’t so.
We don’t even love family members and friends apart from help from others: communications technology, restaurants, entertainments and the rituals of meals and faith we have inherited, etc. Our love for Jesus is not purely personal either. Religion — the Church — facilitates and nourishes our relationship.
Every parish church has a tabernacle: With the priest’s help, there is the real presence of Christ, sitting there with us, always. Every parish church has the Stations of the Cross, proclaiming silently the lengths Jesus is willing to go for us. Every parish has a crucifix, showing how much he loves us.
And at every Mass, he tells us, “Come and see,” and we go and see where he is staying — right here with us.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer is residence at Benedictine College.