1 Sam 3, 3-10.19; 1 Cor 6, 13-15.17-20; Jn 1, 35-42.
Christianity is not a message to be proclaimed but an experience that becomes a message. The ‘come and see’ of the gospel today is an invitation addressed to all of us personally and to the Church in its entirety. Strictly speaking, our call is not to be believers or Christians. Our call is to be disciples, to follow Jesus, or rather, to stay with him: “So they went and saw where he lived, and stayed with him the rest of that day”.
There is a whole lifetime story encapsuled in this Johannine sentence. “They went”: They had asked “Where do you live?”, and Jesus gave no address, but simply said: “Come and see”. When they actually “saw” where he lived, they stayed with him. And they stayed for “the rest of that day”, which means for the rest of their lives.
John plays so much in his gospel on ‘seeing’ and ‘believing’. Because believing is also about seeing. And ‘seeing’ is basically a question not of reasoning but of experiencing, witnessing first hand and very concretely. This is what we need to recover in our being disciples of Christ. If in our processes of transmitting and receiving the faith, the personal touch, the element of something intimately and interiorly experienced, is lacking, then the entire process would be flawed. Christianity itself would be emptied of what gives it meaning and relevance for life today.
This is beautifully illustrated in the two narratives from the First Book of Samuel and John’s gospel in today’s readings. In the first reading, the child Samuel confides in the guidance and discernment of the priest Eli. Then in the gospel, John the Baptist passes the ball to the two disciples and eventually Andrew passes the vital message to his brother Simon: “We have found the Messiah”. This coming and seeing is an adventure, a very humane and relational manner of receiving and handing down a message.
Honestly, many of our parishes need an overhaul in the way all this affair of transmitting the faith is perceived and managed. For centuries, faith has been transmitted by teaching doctrine or catechism. We believed that this was the way to guarantee a future Christian society. Maybe it also worked in an environment that was ‘Christian’ and in a culture where faith had become the ideology of the establishment.
But now we are going through a paradigm shift, and the old ways of transmitting the faith seem no longer adequate. We may even think that this inadequacy is due to the times that have changed, or to a society that has become secular, or to people who may be more alienated now. The old methods and tools no longer function because it is in the nature of faith itself to be experienced rather than taught.
The Scriptures today suggest the ‘humanisation’ of the process of the transmission of faith. St Paul in the second reading speaks of the body which, we have to admit, in Christianity was subjected to a culture of repression. The western dualism, which separated body and soul, has made it difficult for us to be in harmony with our body even if it is with and through our bodily life that we ultimately reach out to God.
The body is a field of energy, both physically and spiritually. When St Paul says: “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit”, he affirms the body as a ‘mansion’, to use Teresa of Avila’s jargon. The body in its physicality is enabled to be a sacred space ‘containing’ God, the space where God dwells. God is not an idea. He can only be experienced. Little do we acknowledge that the body has actually taken centre stage in Christianity with ‘God becoming body’. God’s networks of communication are human relationships.
St Paul remarkably affirms in the second reading: “You are not your own property”. We do not belong to ourselves, and there is something noble and beautiful about our own body and in the manner we reach out to God.
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