Sunday reflection: John 1:35–42

“Sunday Reflection” is a regular feature, looking at the specific readings used in today’s Mass in Catholic parishes around the world. The reflection represents only my own point of view, intended to help prepare myself for the Lord’s day and perhaps spark a meaningful discussion. Previous Sunday Reflections from the main page can be found here.  For previous Green Room entries, click here.

This morning’s Gospel reading is John 1:35–42:

John was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi”—which translated means Teacher—, “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come, and you will see.”

So they went and saw where Jesus was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about four in the afternoon. Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” —which is translated Christ—. Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas”—which is translated Peter.

Thus far, it’s been a pretty good vacation for me, which means that I’ve mostly ignored the news and relaxed over the past week. My wife and I traveled to California to visit family, and also to do a couple of fun things on our own, such as a brief visit to San Diego, which we haven’t seen together since leaving for Minnesota over 17 years ago. My friend Adam Baldwin invited us to the set of The Last Ship and we spent most of the day there, where the crew treated us wonderfully and we got a sneak peak at the premiere episode of the second season.We had dinner with more good friends like Andrew Malcolm, Kurt Schlichter, Patterico, Joel Pollak, Stephen Kruiser, and most of their spouses. In other words, we had an awesome time in almost entirely awesome weather, which we missed (along with our family and friends) when we stepped off the plane in Minneapolis yesterday. Brrrrr.

The key to a successful vacation is to ignore the call of work, which is more difficult than it sounds when one enjoys his work as much as I do mine. I left my laptop behind on this trip, and only took my phone and a new tablet in order to keep myself from doing any work — and I still ended up writing a movie review. What I didn’t do was prepare for a Sunday reflection, either last week or much today, thanks to a busy travel schedule. Consider this more of a couple of thoughts prompted by today’s readings.

I began musing over callings and resistance when I read the passages for today, both the Gospel above and the first reading from 1 Samuel 3, in which Samuel receives his call from the Lord. Samuel gets three calls from the Lord in that passage and keeps thinking that the prophet Eli was beckoning him. It’s not until the fourth call that Samuel recognizes the call for what it is, after Eli instructs him on how to receive it.

Then Eli understood that the LORD was calling the youth. So he said to Samuel, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’”

The Lord calls to us as well, constantly, to help us seek our salvation. Yet we often resist, considering it something to put off, like work after a time of play. Augustine experienced this and expressed it more explicitly than most, knowing he must convert and follow Christ but wishing to put that moment off as long as possible to enjoy his life of pleasure while feigning ignorance. Augustine wished to stay asleep as long as possible, and hoped to delay his awakening — even though in reality he had already awakened to the truth.

What is remarkable in the Gospel is the utter lack of hesitation mentioned in the answer to Jesus’ call by the disciples. In fact, they start following Him even before Jesus tells them, “Come, and you will see.” They experience no confusion, and even though Peter has a significant trade, he and the other disciples simply drop their previous lives and follow His call. They do not go to sleep, or have to be called on multiple occasions. They immediately recognize the authentic call of salvation and act on it.

There’s nothing wrong with a vacation from work, of course. We need rest to recharge our batteries and be refreshed. Even the Apostles took a moment or two to relax among friends. Putting off the call of our jobs for those respites is healthy and necessary. What we can’t do is take a vacation from our calling by the Lord to attend to our salvation, and those of others, no matter what those callings might be. We are not all called to wander the land and preach, but we are called to lives our lives as disciples of the Lord, called just as the Apostles were in today’s Gospel, or as Samuel was in his youth. The longer we ignore that call, the more wretched we become, as Augustine discovered, and yet the Lord is always there waiting to embrace us when we finally receive it.

Do we stay asleep and keep hitting the snooze button, or do we answer the call and come home to our Father?

Note: I’m still on vacation until Tuesday. I’ll have a more prepared reflection for next week. By the way, this is the one-year anniversary of these reflections, and I hope you have enjoyed them.