See what love the Father has bestowed on us
The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. …
We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him,
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. …
‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain,
John is marvelous in his simplicity. He just says what we know, but have a hard time experiencing sometimes. The reason the world doesn’t embrace “us” – followers of Jesus – and the way of Jesus lived out in the real world – is that the world just doesn’t know Jesus.
Each of us can reflect on where we are, in terms of knowing Jesus. Each of us can probably relate to a time when we knew “about” Jesus, and may have “practiced” that faith, to one degree or another. But, the experience of knowing Jesus – experiencing his love and mercy, personally – is quite powerful. It is freeing, emboldening, and it sets us apart from the world around us and its ways.
Take the word “success.” Our world has a variety of ways of describing success and what a successful person looks like, or signs of achieving success. Our world’s language has ways of describing a successful family, a successful career, or even what we mean when we say our children have become successful. We know what those signs are. In some ways, they will have to do with honor, money, status. Once we know Jesus, personally – once that encounter with his unconditional love and mercy has overwhelmed us – everything changes. Success is then defined in terms of whatever helps me become closer to him and his ways. It involves humility, dying to myself, and service of others and the common good. Ultimately, it means taking on his mission to include others, forgive them, heal them, and share with them the joy of the Good News of his love. And, the sign of that highest degree of success is that we will embrace the gift of eternal life with him forever in heaven.
That’s why St. Ignatius speaks of the spiritual journey as the “reformation of our desires.” It’s about what I want; what I seek; what attracts me and motivates me. When I experience Jesus’ love – for me personally – my desires change. Love always does that. I love the one who loves me. The Christian ethic is no longer “avoiding sin, when I can” (while persuing what pleases me or appears to be the goal of success in the world). The Christian life becomes the desire to thrive as a human person on fire with Jesus’ love and his mission. Jesus told us, “They’ll know you are my disciples by the love you have for one another.” (John 13:35). My desires are formed by the one who loves me and with whom I am falling in love.
This is how Jesus is introduced at the beginning of John’s gospel: The Lamb of God. He is the one whose sacrifice will save us from our sin. Behold God’s Mercy! John says that Jesus will baptize us with the Holy Spirit. We won’t just be “washed,” we’ll be set on fire.
On the next day – tomorrow’s gospel – John points out Jesus again. “Behold the Lamb of God.” The two disciples turn toward Jesus and Jesus turns toward them, and the first words of Jesus in John’s gospel are, “What are you looking for?” These are always the words Jesus addresses to us when we turn to him. He doesn’t approach us with a rule book – Do this and you can follow me! He first asks where our heart is. He asks about our desires. The first two disciples don’t know what to say, so they ask “What do you live.” (The word for “home” wlll be key in this gospel, where Jesus will say, “Make your home in me, as I make mine in you.” (John 15:4) Jesus respondes, as he always does to us: “Come, and see.” The disciples went and spent the day with him.
No matter where we are, what shape we’re in spiritually, how confused we are, how much we are hurting or angry or sad – Jesus always invites us to come to him and to see where this new “home” for us is. It will often lead us to row against the strong current around us. What we will discover is complete love, which feels for us and with us, and desires only our healing, our peace and our true fulfillment. And, his Holy Spirit will lift us up and help us join him in renewing the face of the earth.