José Pagola, a Basque author, comments on today’s Gospel: ‘Millions of people call themselves Christians, but they have not had real, personal contact with Christ.’
There’s lots of real personal contact in the Gospel story: John stares hard at Jesus before recognising him; the two disciples follow him home and spend the rest of the day with him; when Andrew goes to find his brother and brings him to Jesus, Jesus looks hard at him before giving him a new name. It’s all up close and personal.
What do you think Jesus and the two disciples were doing all afternoon and evening? I like to think they were just spending time getting to know each other. Everything about Jesus must have attracted them: his tone of voice, the look in his eyes, the way he related to them, the things he laughed at, the experiences they found they had in common. They must have felt the excitement that comes with the beginning of a deep, loving friendship, when you just ‘click’ with another person, you know that you want them to be in your life and you can’t wait to introduce them to your family and friends.
Their belief that he was the long-awaited Messiah added another dimension to their relationship, but it began with that human, personal encounter. That’s why Pope Francis is constantly saying that each of us is called to have an intimate relationship with Jesus: even though we can’t meet him in the flesh, we can spend time with him in prayer, get to know him through the scriptures, become one with him through the sacraments and invite others to meet him.
We sometimes feel awkward about introducing ourselves to someone new because we don’t know how they will react to us, but Jesus has known each of us, by name, not just since before we were born but from the beginning of creation, and he can’t do anything but love us. He knows us better than we know ourselves but he doesn’t want the relationship to be one-sided: he wants us to know and love him as much he knows and loves us.
Like the boy Samuel in our first reading, we can learn to recognise his voice and to respond, even if it’s the fourth or the four thousandth time he’s called us, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening’.