Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
“Laudato Si’ Journey – Sunday Gospel”


Sunday 14 January
Jn 1, 35-42


Following the path of ordinary time, everyday life continues. This Sunday’s story describes the encounter of the first disciples with Jesus, an encounter so important that the exact time remains imprinted in our memory: four in the afternoon.

Our whole life is made up of encounters, looks, words, but many of these happen without us even realizing it. Some deserve to be remembered and actually change the course of our life stories. In the midst of all these meetings and activities, how often do we risk missing out on the truly important ones? Today’s gospel can help us to avoid making this mistake.

At that time John was with two of his disciples”, today’s scene opens again with John the Baptist. We are Τῇ ἐπαύριον (the day after) the witnessing of the encounter—the day of sharing with others. The entire beginning of the Gospel of John is marked by a series of days, up to the sixth day with the wedding at Cana. In this ‘symbolic’ week, we are on the third day today, reminding us that our mission is also marked by certain stages, from waiting to meeting, from testimony to sharing with others.

How does sharing happen? This passage can enlighten us, because it is punctuated by very short dialogues and some key words that express the attitude of John and the first disciples, from which we are still called to learn today. While he is with the two of them, John does two things: “he stares” and “he says”. Looking and speaking. It is not a distracted seeing but an attentive and focused look at a person passing by. How many times does God pass in front of us and we are not even able to notice or to take the initial step? Immediately in relation to this, John speaks. The word, which for us is also a form of creation, sheds a light for the disciples who listen. John indicates who the lamb of God is, the One who takes away our sin and who frees us.

Then two more of the disciples’ actions are described: “they listened” and “they followed”. Listening, which is more than hearing, expresses how those words are then realized and put into practice, with attentiveness. In fact, they immediately generate a consequence: how often do we hear many words that don’t touch us! These words of John, however, changed the lives of the two disciples. In fact, they choose to follow Jesus, to walk behind Him.

Jesus, instead of being happy that two are starting to walk behind him, instead of being proud, surprises us and asks: “What are you looking for?“, the first words spoken by Jesus in the fourth gospel. What are we looking for in life? It is therefore not enough to listen, be good students, or even trust our teachers and start walking. There is a moment when we must be aware of what we are looking for. Our unhappiness lies in the distance between what we seek and what we do, often we don’t even ask ourselves what we are looking for anymore! It is beautiful to see how the whole Gospel of John passes from the first question – “what are you looking for?” – to the last question posed to Mary Magdalene- “who are you looking for?” (Jn 20, 15), we go from looking for something to looking for someone.

To this question, the disciples respond with another question. A strange dialogue. You answer with another question when you don’t know the answer. And the question is profound: “where do you live?”, meaning, “who are you?”. Our home indicates our family, our space in the city, our social level. Where does “the word” dwell? What place do we give it? Jesus is the logos, the Word that creates everything. To say who he is, where he lives, the Word does not use words nor does it try to give definitions of itself. Instead, it proposes two precise actions: Ἔρχεσθε καὶ ⸂ὄψεσθε, “Come and see”. First, move, walk, come, move, change space and perspective. And then, learning from the Baptist, see with an attentive gaze. The Word must not only be read, but must be “walked” and “observed”.

The two disciples respond fully to this invitation from Jesus and in fact carry out three actions: they go, they see and they stay. This is the fullness of the Word with us, when it stimulates us to walk, to move away from our false certainties, when it makes itself seen, scrutinized, contemplated and when in the end it leads us to dwell in it. Because the house, and even more so our common home, expresses our place in society, in the city, in the whole of creation. The house inhabited by the Word of God is certainly a house of luxury.

ὥρα ἦν ὡς δεκάτη. The tenth hour, translated with the expression “it was around four in the afternoon“, indicates the moment in which work in the fields stopped. It was the time to rest after the fatigue of the day. This hour remains imprinted in the disciples’ memories because that day was one of hard work for them, of much searching, of great instability compared to the certainties of a life. The moment of ‘stopping’ is a very pleasant moment of great relaxation. Each of us has a tenth hour to remember and a story to tell.

It is very beautiful how, in this tenth hour, those unspecified “two disciples” are finally given  names, identified as Andrew and Simon. Andrew was defined as someone’s brother and that same someone was chosen by Jesus after he fixed his gaze on him. Even Simon is first defined as someone’s son, but Jesus’ gaze immediately changes the meaning of the name. We have a name that we didn’t choose for ourselves, a name that everyone calls us by. But then if we let ourselves be inhabited by the Word of God, we will find a name that better identifies us and helps us better understand what we are looking for in life. In Simon’s case, the name at the bottom of his heart is כיפא, it is stone or rock. It can be an ambiguous name taken as a compliment – stability, fortitude – or an offense – being stone-headed, not understanding anything. It is up to us to live up our name in its positive sense, that in line with the gospel of Christ.

From this encounter, the entire evangelical announcement flows, like a waterfall, by word of mouth from Andrew and Simon, to Philip and Nathanael and so on until today when this word of mouth reaches us. A Word that, as always, is observed by a witness who indicates, reaches a new ear that evaluates, ascertains and when it finds a home and nourishment, shares it with another person.

May our response to God’s call always be inspiring for us as Saint Francis of Assisi suggests, who said: “Being the servant of all, I am bound to serve all and to administer the balm-bearing words of my Lord. Wherefore, […] I propose by this present letter and message to offer you the words of our Lord Jesus Christ who is the Word of the Father and the words of the Holy Ghost which are “spirit and life” (FF 180)

We warmly wish you a lovely Sunday!

Laudato Si’!