There is a story of a missionary in Africa who was fascinated at why a particular Bedouin; a native in the desert would lie on the ground at different times of the day. When asked what he was doing, he replied, “The earth is my friend; she has provided for my ancestors, she is providing for my present family and will continue to provide for my descendants. Each time I lie down, I am befriending mother earth and I hear the voice of her cries that say, “I long to be a garden . . . I long not only to feed you . . . but, also be beautiful for you.”
As desert have “longings,” in a more profound manner, there are the deep longings of the human heart to become a greater person who possesses a peace and who shares a love that brings joy and happiness to others.
In today’s Gospel, the apostles John, Andrew, Simon Peter and another apostle too had deep “longings” within their hearts for the deeper peace, love, joy and happiness of life that they found only in Jesus. So, they approached Jesus and asked Him, “Rabbi, where to do you live?” Jesus replied, “Come and See.” So, they went and saw where He lived and stayed with Him the rest of the day . . . discovering more personally who Jesus is.
What about us? Do we also have deep longings in our hearts to know Jesus more personally, like the apostles? Are we ready to know Jesus more personally or allow Jesus to know us more personally? What if Jesus were to say, to you and me today, “I want to come and see your home today and live with you and your family for a few days?”
What would our response be? Would we welcome Jesus to our home immediately with great joy or would we say, “Lord, give me some time to tidy up my home and put aside things that You may not want to see?” Would our experiences of Jesus be something like the insights of this poem?
If Jesus came to your house to spend a day or two –
If He came unexpectedly, I wonder what you would do.
Oh, I know you would give your nicest room to such an Honoured Guest;
And all the food you would serve Him would be the very best.
And you would keep assuring Him you are glad to have Him there,
That serving Him within your home is joy beyond compare.
But – when you saw Him coming would you meet Him at the door
with arms outstretched in welcome to your Heavenly Visitor?
Or would you have to change your clothes before you let Him in?
Or hide some current magazines and put the Bible where it had been?
Would you turn off the TV set and hope He hadn’t heard?
And wish you hadn’t uttered that last, loud, hasty word?
Would you hide your worldly music and put some hymn books out?
Could Jesus walk right in – or would you have to rush about?
And so, I wonder – if the Savour spent a day or two with you,
Would you continue doing the things you always do?
Would you go right on repeating the things you always say?
Would life for you continue as it does from day to day?
Would your family conversation keep up its usual pace?
And at the dinner table would you say a word of grace?
Would you sing the songs you always sing and read the books you read?
And let Him know the things on which your mind and spirit feed?
And would you take Him with you everywhere you planned to go?
Or would you maybe change your plans for just a day or so?
Would you be glad to have Him meet your closest friends?
Or would you hope they would stay away until His visit ends?
Would you be glad to have Him stay forever – on and on?
Or would you sigh with great relief when He at last was gone?
Yes, it might be interesting to know the things you would do.
If Jesus came in person to spend some time with you.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, how at peace are we with Jesus? Do we have a relationship with Him or is He a stranger in our lives? As with the apostles, Jesus, as in today’s Gospel is inviting you and I to “Come and See”; to get to know Him more personally, and not seek Him only when we are in the mood to do so or when we are facing a crisis in our lives.
In today’s Gospel, when the apostles got to know Jesus more personally, their lives were transformed. Jesus who looked at Simon’s heart changed his name to “Cephas” as a sign of changing Simon’s mission to be the “rock” and the solid foundation of the Church as the head of the apostles.
In our First Reading, when God called Samuel who eventually answered, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening,” Samuel was called to leave behind his priestly duties and become a prophet and judge of the people of Israel.
As with Peter, the apostles and Samuel . . . God too is calling you and I, to “newer challenges of loving Him and serving His people in our daily lives.” Would our response be, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening?” Or, would it more likely be, “Listen Lord, your servant is speaking?!” In saying this, we would be telling Jesus, as we are very busy with so many things and concerns in life it is enough just to come to Mass on Sunday.
My sisters and brothers in Christ, actually all of us here love God. However, while we want to know Jesus more personally, we fear the unknown future that being too close to Jesus may demand of us. And so, this next poem probably expresses what we may be feeling.
My dreams for life were laid;
My journey mapped and made.
The Lord was at my side
to be my friend and guide.
So I started out.
But then, the sky turned dark.
The road grew steep and stark.
I scarce could travel on.
I turned and cried: “My Lord!”
Where is the road; where is the light?
Why this pain; why this night?”
The Lord turned and said, “My child!”
Where is the faith; where is the trust?
Why this fear; why this fright?
I chose this way for you.
Just take my hand and travel on.”
And so, as I conclude, let us remind ourselves that even as we all want to love God more . . . And as such, love our families, friends and neighbours including the poor, sick, aged and needy of society more, many of us tend to hesitate and shy away from getting to know Jesus more personally. This is not only because we live very busy lives, but also because we may not know what Jesus may ask of us when we get to know Him better.
If these are our reasons for not knowing Jesus better, then we are also clinging on to the false and material securities of our human needs and lifestyles that we know of instead of building our lives on Jesus as our foundation. If this is the case, it is no wonder that we do not feel ready to let Jesus into the privacy of our homes and the secrets of our hearts; if our lives continue in this manner, we will always be a Catholic Christian who live on the fringes of our faith and looking in; never getting involved and as such failing to experience the great joy, peace and happiness of what having a personal relationship with Jesus will experience.
Jesus is inviting you and I to develop and even deeper and more personal relationship with Him today. Will we open our hearts to His invitation and respond, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening,” or are we more likely going to say, “Listen Lord, your servant is speaking.”
Msgr Philip Heng,S.J.
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