Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Epiphany as Personal Encounter: Andrew and John Meet Jesus

It all began on an ordinary afternoon. "They went and saw where Jesus was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about four in the afternoon."

Last Sunday's Gospel reading continues the seasonal theme of God's "epiphany" in the world. But here we have the announcement of a more intimate manifestation, in the form of those personal encounters with Jesus that begin with the two disciples who follow the testimony of John the Baptist. We do not even know the details of what transpired on that afternoon—what exactly they "saw" when they went to the place where Jesus was staying—but it was enough to make Andrew himself into a witness to his brother, Simon (whom Jesus would call 'Peter'): "We have found the Messiah."

On that first afternoon, they met a man whose human face revealed the saving love of God. They experienced something beautiful and new in the time they spent with that man—beautiful, unique, awesome, meaningful, convincing, and worth following.
"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" (John 1:35:42).

In his remarks prior the Angelus on January 14, Pope Francis articulates the factors involved in this very intimate and decisive moment at the beginning of Jesus's ministry, and how the same dynamic pertains to each one of us:
"Each one of us, in as much as we are a human being, is seeking: seeking happiness, seeking love, a good and full life. God the Father has given us all this in His Son Jesus.
"Fundamental in this search is the role of a true witness, of a person who first of all has made the journey and has encountered the Lord. In the Gospel, John the Baptist is this witness. Therefore he can direct the disciples to Jesus, who involves them in a new experience, saying: 'Come and see' (John 1:39).
"And those two will never be able to forget the beauty of that encounter, to the point that the Evangelist even notes the hour: 'it was about four o’clock in the afternoon.'
"Only a personal encounter with Jesus generates a path of faith and of discipleship.
"We can have many experiences, do many things, establish relations with many persons, but only the meeting with Jesus, in the hour that God knows, can give full meaning to our life and make our projects and our initiatives fruitful."