Note that in the Gospel heard at Mass this week-end, rather than baptize Jesus in the Jordan, John the Baptist points to Jesus and “reveals” him to two of his own disciples: “Behold the Lamb of God.” This revelation could be called “an Epiphany.” Through God’s self-sacrifice in Christ, “God reconciles the world to Himself.” The action is primarily on God’s side. Man’s part is to keep making the loving response of faith, through which God’s incarnating presence continues to grow in our hearts and hence in the world. Again, that is one way of expressing the theme of the entire Gospel.
As I intend to show in our faith classes on the Gospel of John (beginning 2 February), John chooses his words very carefully, and evidently delights in symbolic meanings intended to lead us into the mystery of Christ, into the heart of the living God. In this light, consider the first words spoken by Jesus in this Gospel: “What are you seeking?” Note well: this is a question, not a proclamation. In Mark’s Gospel, by contrast, the first words of Christ are bold proclamation: “The time is fulfilled; the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.” In John’s Gospel, however, Jesus actively probes the minds of would-be disciples with a penetrating question: “What are you seeking?” Jesus is the master-questioner.
This question, I suggest, is intended by the evangelist to be a life-question for disciples. For it is not just asked and forgotten. In fact, towards the end of the same Gospel, Jesus asks Mary Magdalen in the Garden: “Whom are you seeking?” The entire Gospel of John is bracketed by this question, indicating its significance. Well, what are you seeking? Power? Money? Pleasure? Comfort? Or perhaps growth in virtue? Or knowledge, or wisdom? Or eternal life? Christ in you, “the hope of glory?”
“Know thyself.” What are you seeking? And that question needs to be heard again and again in our hearts and minds. The answer you give is your life.