Reflection fo Sunday – January 14, 2018

Readings: 1 Samuel 3:3B-10,19; 1 Corinthians 6: 13C-15A, 17-20; John 1: 35-42
Click here to download a PDF of this homily.
Preacher: Marlene Bessette

As I prayed over today’s gospel, what kept surfacing for me is the power of a
question. In my experience, a question is a very useful tool—in business,
education, therapy…really in any kind of relationship. Good questions can spur
innovation, learning, insight, and lead to personal and interpersonal growth.

I recently read that the inspiration for the instant Polaroid camera (Boy, I’m
showing my age using a Polaroid as an example!) came about when the inventor’s
daughter, impatient to see a photo her father just took, asked, “Why do we have
to wait for the picture?” Instead of just answering with an explanation of the
chemical process to develop film negatives into photographs, the inventor
allowed himself to be drawn into the question with an attitude of exploration and
wonder—eventually resulting in a new technology. What this example
demonstrates, as does our gospel, is that although the question is important,
what happens next is what really matters.

The first words Jesus speaks in today’s reading, indeed, the very first words he
speaks in the Gospel of John, are, “What are you looking for?” How many of us
have spent a lifetime asking and answering this question? I know that I have
asked myself this question and acted on my answers many times over the course
of my life, whether it was in getting an education, deciding where to live, pursuing
a career or even getting married and starting a family—I first had to figure out
“what I was looking for.”

But how do we answer when it is Jesus asking us that question? In our gospel
today, it was this question that started Jesus’ ministry, his following. Speaking for
myself, when I contemplate Jesus asking me, “What are you looking for?” the
simple and at the same time complicated answer is “Myself!”

I am looking for the person that God created me to be and only by engaging in
dialogue, in prayer, with Jesus, do I have some hope of getting an answer. I have
been fortunate in that I was invited to engage in the spiritual exercises of St.
Ignatius a dozen years ago. The practice of evolving an intimate relationship with
Jesus through regular prayer eventually gave me the courage to quit my
corporate life and join Catholic Charities, it has given me the direction and
courage to speak to others of the joy one finds in working “for-purpose” rather
than for-profit. Sometimes I would just like to stop and pat myself on the back for
all I have done, but Jesus will not let me do that for long. What I have come to
realize is that I am not yet done answering the question Jesus asks: “What are you
looking for?”

Each one of us must answer that question for ourselves through the prayer
practice that best connects your mind and spirit to our Lord. It might be the Mass
and Eucharist, a retreat, spiritual direction, or bible study. It is safe to assume
however, that after much honest soul-searching, the answer will never be selfish
or self-serving. It must always reflect the love and forgiveness that Jesus brought
into the world for each and every person on this planet. And in all likelihood, the
true answer will stretch you beyond your comfort zone, beyond what you could
ever imagine.

Will Jesus ever stop asking this question of us, regardless of how faithfully we
believe we are leading our lives? In my prayer, I see us all walking after Jesus,
faithfully following…and He stops, turns around, and asks yet again, “What are
you looking for?” It’s almost like He’s saying: “Why are you just standing there?
Can’t you see we have so much more to do? We still have the hungry and
homeless, we still have the oppressed, the addicted, the refugee, the abused
children, the frail elderly…we still have poverty even though the total wealth in
our world could easily eradicate it…we still have suffering and war and racism and
hatred. What are you looking for—it’s all around you!”

With a challenge like that, we may be tempted to stop because of the
hopelessness of it all. But Jesus knows we don’t have the answers ourselves.
That’s why He will always invite us, as he did Andrew and the first followers, to
“Come, and you will see.”

Marlene Bessette

Marlene Bessette

Marlene Bessette is President and Chief Executive Officer for Catholic Family Center, a subsidiary of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Rochester.CFC serves over 32,000 of the poor and most vulnerable individuals and families in Monroe County.CFC works with the homeless, the chemically addicted, and the mentally ill to help stabilize their lives. Prior to joining CFC in January of 2013, she worked for Xerox Corporation for 28 years. She earned a B.A. in biology from the University of Rochester, a MBA from Duke University and will be awarded a MA in theology from St Bernard's School of Theology and Ministry in May 2016. She resides in Pittsford with her husband Eric and worships at the Church of the Transfiguration.
Marlene Bessette