2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cathedral of Mary Our Queen/St. Joan of Arc
January 17, 2021
When there are only a few pieces left on the chessboard or only a few cards to be played in a game of bridge, we call that “the endgame”. The word “endgame” applies to other situations as well – such as the ultimate outcomes of business or military strategies.
We can also apply the word “endgame” to our lives. The endgame of our lives is not merely the achievement of our goals. In fact, we can attain or exceed every goal that we envisioned in our youth, yet find ourselves unhappy and dissatisfied, especially at that stage of life when we have only a few cards left to play. In other words, it is possible to be outwardly successful but inwardly unfulfilled. Thus, achieving personal goals is not the endgame for which we were made.
“What Are You Looking For?”
In today’s reading from John’s Gospel, Jesus asks the endgame question. Noticing that two of John the Baptist’s disciples are following him, Jesus turns and asks, “What are you looking for?” At one level, his question seems ordinary enough; it’s like saying, “May I help you?” “Is there something you need?” or even, “Did you lose something?” But John’s Gospel doesn’t operate on one level only. Sometimes, the words in his Gospel have another, deeper level of meaning, and this question, “What are you looking for”, is one of those occasions. In reality, Jesus is asking those two future apostles, “What is your endgame?” What really do you want out of life? Where is your life headed?
Let us listen as Jesus asks us that question. What is our endgame? What do we want out of life? Where are we headed? Amid the busyness and distractions of daily life, the endgame question gets lost. Often, we do not like to deal with it because it confronts us with our mortality. Yet, no question is more important, and failure to grapple with it leaves us hollow. It is not only a question of what we want to do, or what we would like to have, but rather, the question of who are, and who we want to become. Put another way, it is not a question of having more or doing more, but of being more.
Of course, “being more” does pertain to what we do every day: what gets us up in the morning, what we read, whom we love, the decisions we make. Our moral decisions and our goals, both long and short term, shape who we are. As we grow older, we can detect the “moral footprint” of our lives. We can see patterns of squandered opportunities and regrettable choices (sins!). At some point, we need to confront these “inconvenient truths” about ourselves. Looking back, we can also see that we have devoted ourselves to what is good. We have loved and nurtured our families. We have donated to charity. Perhaps we worked for racial justice or for the cause of life or for the end of poverty. All these are good causes and are today more necessary than ever. Yet, while our moral footprint reveals what we have consistently chosen in the past, it does not conclusively answer the ultimate question: “What are we looking for?”
“Where Are You Staying?”
To answer that question more fully, we need to return to today’s Gospel passage. For, in response to Jesus’ searching question, ‘What are you looking for?’ – the young men ask Jesus a question, namely, ‘Where are you staying?’ Does it not almost seem as if they are trying to change the subject? But the question of these young men, no less than Jesus’ question, was not small-talk. They were not merely trying to find out where Jesus was residing. Rather, they were really asking where Jesus “remains” – In biblical language, it is as if they had asked Jesus “What makes you tick?” “Where is your life anchored?” “What is the ‘source and summit’ of your life?”
Scholars tell us that the Greek word for “stay” or “remain” is “menō”, the very word Jesus will use later on to describe his relationship with the Father and with us. And I quote: “As the Father loves me, so I love you. Remain [i.e., “stay”] in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain [or “stay”] in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and remain in his love” (John 15:9-10). In other words, Jesus’ dwelling place, his abode, is with God the Father. That relationship is at the core of his being. That is his “home base”. That is the source and endgame of his life and mission on this earth. But these young men, these future apostles, have yet to discover this.
“Come and See”
So Jesus invites them “to come and see” – not just to visit his earthly lodgings, but rather to ‘come and discover’ where he really lives, viz., with his Heavenly Father, that is, in an eternal relationship of life and love with God the Father in the Holy Spirit. Indeed, he invites them on a life-long journey of discovery that will lead them to become his closest followers and his friends, who will share intimately in his relationship of life and love with God the Father.
Today, and every day of our lives, the Lord extends the same invitation to us: “Come and see” – come and discover that pure and infinite love for which you long; “taste and see” that love which alone gives your life its ultimate meaning and purpose; experience and share in that love without which our lives makes no ultimate sense. For, as St. John Paul II has written: “[We] cannot live without love … [our] life is senseless if love is not revealed to [us], if [we] do not encounter love … if [we] do not participate intimately in it” (RH, 10).
Responding to Jesus invitation, “come and see,” we have only to listen. We have only to follow the good advice the elderly Eli gave to the young Samuel when he said, “Say to the Lord, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’” Put another way, when we pray quietly in our rooms or at Eucharistic Adoration, or when we read the Bible prayerfully, or pray the Rosary, or participate in the Mass, we are accepting the Lord’s invitation to ‘come and see’ – to discover not only ‘what makes Jesus tick’ but ‘what makes us tick’ as well. When we stay with Jesus, remaining with him in daily prayer, we re-discover who he is and who we are called to be and to become – our endgame – namely, to be unique, unrepeatable reflections of Christ’s truth and life and love.
From Prayer to Action
In our impatience to attain goals or to make things better, this may sound impractical. Yet, it is only when we remain in the Lord and with the Lord, that we truly discover how we are truly called to advance the Kingdom of God on earth, his Kingdom of justice, love, and peace. It is only when we remain in the Lord that we have both the strength and the wisdom to pursue noble goals like ending racial injustice, helping the poor, promoting life, and creating a world that is more just, peaceful, and respectful.
On this weekend when we observe the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we rightly focus on the long-delayed goal of eliminating racism from our midst, and ensuring that the doors of equity and opportunity are open to all. There is much work to do in our nation, in our local communities and in our Church. But let us engage in this worthy cause with our eyes fixed on the endgame, “…where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Co. 3:1). May God bless us and keep us always in his love.