Change of name for Simon. Change of address for the first 4 Apostles. Change of occupation for all of them, eventually. Change of life, for all who follow him. Not just the 12.
In what’s called the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke (synoptic meaning similar), Jesus goes to the Sea of Galilee, finding two sets of brothers. And to each of them he says, “Follow me.” And they do follow him, all the way to their own martyrdom. Peter in Rome; others throughout the known world, except for John we believe, who died a natural death. They follow and they never let go. They got lost at times, like we do. They lacked faith at times, like we probably have when difficulty sets in. They abandoned him in his hour of trial, for a short time. Maybe we have too. But they follow Jesus until the cows come home.
In John’s Gospel, the scene differs. Two disciples, only one whose name is given, that being Andrew, hear the words of John the Baptist. They are probably disciples of John, standing there around 4:00 in the afternoon (I love it when the Gospel gets that precise!), so they are most likely returning from their day jobs of fishing, coming to John their leader. They happen to be in close enough proximity – things happen for a reason – to hear the words of the Baptist, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” This gets their attention. So, like good spies, they begin to follow the Person John spoke about.
Jesus notices they are following him in the same way we would notice a State Trooper following us on the highway. All of a sudden we slow down to the speed limit. So Jesus turns on his siren, I mean, Jesus turns around and calls them on their following him. “What are you looking for?” They don’t make very good spies.
“What are you looking for?” A relevant question for all of us as we come here to Immaculate Conception up on the hill. Are you looking for some spiritual fulfillment? Are you just looking to fulfill another Sunday obligation? Are you looking to be moved by the Spirit of God through the Scriptures, and receive the Bread of Life in the Eucharist? Are you looking to be healed and comforted as a result of some pain and suffering? Are you looking for God’s mercy and forgiveness? Are you looking to be lifted up? “What are you looking for?” Jesus is asking.
The disciples’ answer, one of whom is Andrew, is, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” What’s your address? We want to come to your house. We want to spend time with you. We want to get to know you. We want to hang out with you. We want to see what you’re all about with those words of John, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” Let us get close to you, Rabbi.
What a great answer to Jesus’ question, “What are you looking for?” “Rabbi, where are you staying?” Very different from Jesus walking along the shore, spotting the ones he wanted, and saying, “Follow me.” Or, walking by a tax collector’s table, or a UPS truck, and saying, “Leave that occupation behind and follow me. I have a new address for you. The new address is called, “The world.”
Here, the first two disciples take the initiative. The Spirit is moving them already towards their new address and new occupation.
From our taking the initiative, we see one of the many exciting aspects of following our Lord. Not waiting for him to come by our boat and take us away from all that is routine and comfortable and all that we know and love. That happens to a select few, where God demands much, much more from those to be included in the Communion of Saints. Pope Francis was taken out of Argentina, never to return to his native country. And if by chance he ever does return, it can never be in the same capacity.
But our taking the initiative in our faith lives; following Jesus when we think he isn’t looking or paying attention to us, such initiative will lead us to what I call the wonderful uncertainty of Christian Living. How is our name going to change from Simon to St. Peter? From Mary to St. Mary? From Joanne to St. Joanne? From Stephen to St Stephen? From Joseph to St. Joseph?
Because when we take the initiative of following our Lord to see where he’s going, even when he isn’t looking, we will be handed countless opportunities in the routine of our daily lives to reveal our Christian faith out there on the streets, in our homes, at our places of labor.
One of the more exciting parts of being a diocesan priest – and there are many exciting parts – is that every day looks different. We have what I would call a semi-routine. We’re not in the same solid routine as those guys who wear the long holy robes up in Spencer. They have a routine that comes from St. Benedict, especially getting their beer out to the local markets now. But a diocesan priest, a parish priest, has a routine that can and will change very quickly. I find that to be fulfilling. Challenging at times, but fulfilling. With that said, don’t start calling me at 3:00 in the morning, unless you really need to.
Taking the initiative to follow the Lamb of God is an approach to our faith that keeps us on our toes. It may keep us guessing; “What is God sending next?” It keeps us awake, for Jesus says don’t fall asleep waiting for me. Otherwise, we will run out of oil for our lamp.
Taking the initiative like Andrew and the other unnamed disciple, who could be seen as each one of us, it benefits our lives in that we avoid spiritual indifference and becoming complacent with our faith in Jesus Christ. Such indifference is one of the most prevalent sins of our time. This attitude of settling for much less than what Jesus offers us. Rather, walking in the footsteps of Andrew, and following that Man, takes initiative.
“What are you looking for?” A great question that will dog our lives until the time we appear before God. An excellent question by Jesus that will upset the routine of our daily living, in the best of ways. A question that brings joy in this world, and lasting joy when we follow him to our death. A question that will lead to a change of address, a change of name, a change of occupation, and a change of life. This is what happens when we live for the Lord first and follow him.