sabato 13 gennaio 2018

«Venite et videte»

The feast of the Lord’s Baptism, that we celebrated last Sunday, is, at the same time, the conclusion of Christmastide and the beginning of Ordinary Time. So, today is the second Sunday in Ordinary Time. During this liturgical season, the gospel presents to us the public ministry of Jesus, from his baptism to his passion. On this Sunday, it tells us what happened immediately after the baptism, resorting to some passages from the evangelist John. This gospel, like the first book of the Bible—Genesis—opens with the account of events occurred during a week. What we have heard in today’s gospel happens on the third day of this opening week. 

At the beginning of the passage, we encounter John the Baptist, who, on the previous days, has borne his witness to Jesus. He has baptized him; he has heard the voice of the Father declaring Jesus his beloved Son; he has seen the Holy Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him; so, now he is able to testify that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah, the suffering Servant who will die for the sins of the people. John the Baptist introduces Jesus as the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” It is with this title that he points to Jesus in the presence of two of his disciples. One of them is Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter; the other one most probably is John, the author of the gospel, eyewitness of the event. 

For the two disciples John’s words are enough to follow Jesus. They do not need further explanation; they are content with knowing that he is the Lamb of God. And when Jesus asks them, “What are you looking for?”, they do not reply requesting his program or inquiring about his ideas, but simply asking, “Where are you staying?” Likewise, Jesus does not waste too many words in his answer; he just says, “Come, and you will see (NAB; New Vulgate: Venite et videbitis).” It would seem that words are not so important; what matters is direct, personal experience. 

The gospel tells us that the two disciples stayed with him that day. Certainly, they talked during that day; but the gospel does not tell us what they said. It means that it was non-essential. It was more important to stay together. And we understand how meaningful was for them that encounter by a minor detail we find in the gospel: “It was about four in the afternoon.” After so many years, John still remembered what time it was when he met Jesus for the first time. Evidently, that was the most significant moment in his life.

So significant that they cannot keep that extraordinary experience for themselves. Andrew, as soon he meets his brother Simon, cannot but share his discovery with him, “We have found the Messiah.” Even in this case, Andrew’s word is enough for Peter to go to Jesus and personally check the truth of his brother’s testimony. With Simon too Jesus shows himself sparing of speech, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas.” To be sure, this nickname—Cephas, which means “Rock”—predicts the future role of Simon in the Church; but maybe Jesus’ gaze could do more than words. Certainly, Peter left everything to follow Jesus, not because Jesus promised him a successful career, but because he felt loved by him.

Probably, we have somehow ideologized Christianity; we have made it a matter of words, ideas, values. Maybe we should rediscover it as a personal encounter with Jesus. Christ is neither a philosopher nor the leader of a political party; he is the Lamb of God, the Messiah, the Son of God, who wants to establish a personal relationship with each of us; he wants to stay with us; he invites us saying, “Come and see (RSV; Vulgate: Venite et videte).”