John 1: 35-42
35 The next day John was again in the same place, along with two of his disciples. 36 Fixing his gaze on Jesus who was walking, he cried out, "Behold the lamb of God". 37 Two of his disciples heard him say this, and began to follow Jesus. 38 Turning around and seeing them following him, Jesus said to them, "What are you looking for?" They replied: "Rabbi" - which means: master - "where do you live?" 39 He said to them, "Come and you will see." So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about four in the afternoon. 40 Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, was one of two disciples who listened to John and followed Jesus. 41 He goes first to find his own brother, Simon, and says to him, "We have found the messiah", which means "anointed" or "Christ". 42 He brought him to Jesus. Fixing his gaze on Simon, Jesus said to him, "You are Simon, son of John. From now on, you will be called Cephas", which means Peter.
How far will these words go?
Gospel commentary - Homily
Speak, never shut up
It's a story one usually hesitates to talk about. It is a mother who dares to say in the newspaper: we have a son who has become a criminal. The situation is not easy to live with. She and her husband have lost many friends, not to mention those who frequent them with some embarrassment. Yet what more could these parents do? Numerous meetings with doctors, social workers, psychiatrists, youth center and addiction center workers, lawyers, Crown attorneys, judges, police.
This son was born like many other children in an affluent environment. He knew all the possible opportunities, received all the services offered by public and private establishments, had educated parents. But, from the youngest age of her son, says the mother, she lived through his tantrums, his destructive behavior, his hateful words which, accompanied by chronic lies, gave way to theft, to alcohol consumption, drugs, driving unlicensed vehicles and unsafe behavior, only to end up with street gang traffic. She struggled to hope that her son would return to the right path one day and that he would earn an honorable living. But in vain. How not to sink into depression and despair, if your son means anything to you? The heart remains broken forever.
I wanted to try to read again the gospel of this day with this heartbreaking situation in mind. Because if there are situations that the gospel cannot enlighten and bring some hope to, then it is not the good news that we proclaim. However, today's gospel with its narrative of the first disciples who join Jesus seems so far from our daily miseries. Let's take the time to listen to what it says.
There are not many words in this narrative from the evangelist John, but they are strong and heavy. "Here is the lamb of God". For us, that means almost nothing, apart from designating herd behavior. It is only by going through biblical history that we discover that this symbol is far from representing someone who has no personality and who follows others. Did you know that, in Jewish tradition, the lamb of God could represent Moses, because of the pun with the Aramaic word "talya" which can mean both servant and lamb? Moses was considered the servant of God, his leader in the liberation of Egypt. Speaking of liberation from Egypt, it is still the lamb that plays an important role, because by sprinkling the lintels of the door with its blood, the Hebrews escaped the angel of death who roamed Egypt. So to say of someone that he is the lamb of God is to say that he is the new Moses, the leader of a new liberation, the one who will allow the forces of death to be crossed. Hearing this, what would you have done?
In our story, two disciples, including Andrew, listen to these words of John the Baptist and begin to follow Jesus. Why do you think? Their hearts are in search. They want a better reality. Otherwise, the words of John the Baptist would have had no echo in them. The story continues as follows: having turned around and seen them following him, Jesus said to them, "What are you looking for?" Someone who reads this sentence in its Greek original will have noticed that the word "having turned around" (strephō) is used to speak of conversion, of awareness generating a new look (see Jn 12: 40; Jn 20: 14.16). In other words, the very fact that the disciples want to follow him makes Jesus realize that he is called to be a master, a leader. All this domino effect triggered by a simple word from John the Baptist.
Let's continue with the rest of the story. The dialogue of the two disciples with Jesus may seem confusing, "Master, where do you live?"; "Come and you'll see". The question of the two disciples means: who are you? The answer: walk with me, experience a community of life with me and you will have your answer at the end. In fact, this answer is only obtained at the end of a lifetime. But the evangelist schematizes things, so much so that the next day Andrew will say to his brother Simon, "We have found the messiah". To speak of the Messiah is to speak of an answer to all our prayers, it is to speak of hope fulfilled, it is to speak of problems resolved. You can understand Simon's reaction to go to Jesus where he will be told that he will be the rock, the foundation of this group that believes in this messiah.
There are many incredible things in this story. A single word from John the Baptist, and two disciples begin to follow Jesus, and the latter somehow discovers his mission. Andrew says a simple sentence, a sentence that will transform his brother Simon into a pillar of community. What would have happened if John the Baptist had not spoken, if the two disciples had not said, "where are you staying?" What if Andrew hadn't spoken to his brother? We would live in a different world. However, John the Baptist was only an exalted little Jew who ended his days in prison, Andrew quickly fell into oblivion, and Simon was just an uneducated fisherman. But the transformations effected by their word remain. Finally, what to do with this word that Jesus is the messiah after a few hours spent with him. The evangelist schematizes, because it is after his crucifixion and his death that this word will be really proclaimed.
Let's go back to this mother who is crying for her son in prison. What courage to have spoken in public, to have overcome any feeling of shame or guilt. It is important that this word be said, because it will make its way into hearts ready to receive it. These words have already helped solidify her relationship. She will support other families. It will also help us to dare to speak, not to be silent. In this, it is on the same level as that of John the Baptist and Andrew. In its own way, it is a cry for the coming of a messiah. This messiah cannot come if he has not been called with all our might first.
-André Gilbert, Gatineau, December 2014