2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time
Cashier: “What Are You Looking For?”
This past summer, I went to the New Jersey shore for two days.
A priest friend had invited another priest and me to visit at his family home in Brigantine. Jim had given us directions, but, let’s just say, once we got off the New Jersey Turnpike, the roads got very confusing.
So, we pulled into an Exxon station and I went into the Tiger Mart. I walked up to the cashier and said, “Pardon me, but I need some directions.”
The guy looked up and responded, “What are you looking for?” Within 30 seconds, I had the directions and we were on our way.
Jesus: “What Are You Looking For?”
I recall that cashier’s question – “What are you looking for?” – I recall it today because it is the same question Jesus asks in today’s gospel.
And very significantly, these are the very first words Jesus speaks in John’s gospel. Jesus is posing this question to the two disciples who have started to follow him.
And today, Jesus is asking the same question of each of us: “What are you looking for?” Because of its position in the gospel, this must be a very important question.
What Are We Looking For?
If we look within ourselves and at our own life experience, we probably have responded to this question in various ways.
We might be looking for a feeling of self-esteem or self-worth. Or maybe it is a feeling of acceptance or belonging to some group.
We might be looking for the opportunity to make a difference in the life of at least someone. Or maybe it is financial security or success in school or on a basketball team or at your job,
All of these things that we might be looking for are good and legitimate. At the same time, they are limited and not the full picture.
To the two disciples in today’s gospel, Jesus says: “Come and you will see.” In other words, he invites them to focus on himself because in doing that, they will discover what they are really looking for.
And then, in the dialogue involving the disciples in this passage, we hear three titles given to Jesus. These titles reveal something of who Jesus is and in doing that, they also reveal what we are really looking for.
What Are We Looking For: The Three Titles
First, Jesus is called “the Lamb of God.” This title refers to the image of the Passover lamb that was offered each year as a way to celebrate what God had done for his people and God’s closeness with them.
So, Jesus as “the Lamb of God” satisfies our looking for closeness and intimacy with God. He satisfies our looking for acceptance and belonging on a level that no other person can do for us.
Then, Jesus is called “’Rabbi’ – which means Teacher.” This title means that Jesus offers wisdom and even the definitive word about God and the human condition.
So, Jesus as “Rabbi” satisfies our looking for insight and truth and the way to become the person God creates us to be. He satisfies our looking for a sense of direction and meaning and purpose for our lives.
And finally, Jesus is called “’Messiah’ – which means Christ.” This title means that Jesus fulfills the hope that has been around for centuries before his coming, the hope for a leader for God’s people.
So, Jesus as “Messiah” satisfies our looking for hope in the midst of physical pain, emotional suffering, or anxiety about the future. And, as these first two disciples would learn, he even satisfies our looking for hope in the face of physical death.
We end where we began: “What are you looking for?”
At different moments and in different situations, we are all looking for various things in life. And all of these can be good.
But, underneath and beyond all of these, in the big picture and long run of life, we are really looking for closeness and acceptance, meaning and direction, and hope for life. We are looking for Jesus and what only Jesus can give.