Mystical Word  |  Weekly Reflection
Mystical Word is a weekly reflection on the Sunday Gospel reading by L.J. Milone, Director of Faith Formation, Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle

"What are you looking for?"

What do you truly desire?

Deep down, we’re all looking for something. We experience an aching desire, oftentimes dulled by our ever-distracting culture, for what lies beyond us. We may not describe this desire as aching for the beyond, but nothing here on earth ever seems to satisfy us for long. It is as if we have a hole in our hearts that cannot be filled with sufficiency or satiety. This longing, existential in nature, drives us to build, innovate, renew, grow, and connect. Yet, the desire remains.

“What are you looking for?” This is Jesus’ poignant question to us and to the disciples in the Gospel reading from the first chapter of John. What am I looking for? What do I really want? While we all experience the existential desire I describe above, we get pulled into many small and, often, superficial desires. And then we try our best to satisfy as many of those as possible. I’m hungry for fine dining. I want to remodel my living room. I need more time for relaxation. I have to buy this product. I’ve got to go play video games. I need to spend more time on social media. I must make more money. We can even turn a desire for relationship and connection into something we crave, an object to consume but that never satisfies.

Jesus’ question about what we truly desire helps us become clear about this longing for the beyond: it is a longing for God. The two disciples, sent to Jesus by John the Baptist, sense something unique about Jesus. They feel drawn to him. Indeed, Jesus displays a magnetic spiritual attractiveness. The very presence of Jesus lures people in because he is the Word of God. His very presence emanates the presence of God. Marthe Robin, a French mystic who was active in the middle of the last century, describes this well: “One gives God only through radiating him.” Jesus radiates God because he is one with God. And this divine radiation strikes that existential ache for the beyond in the two disciples following him.

Sensing, perhaps, a fulfillment of their deep desire, they ask Jesus, “Where are you staying?” now, this is a loaded question in the Gospel of John. The words “stay,” “dwell,” and “remain” are all translations of one Greek word: menein. This is a theological term that points to the interior of a person. It is about where one’s spirit dwells: who or what does your spirit identify with? What is the center of your life?

Where does Jesus dwell? Where is he rooted? The question of the disciples is like us asking, how are you so grounded and happy? Who or what is making you so unconditionally free and serene? Of course, Jesus dwells in the Father. He is grounded in the Absolute, the Mystery beyond all things. That is the source of his unruffled bliss and impenetrable calm and wild freedom.

Jesus responds to the disciples with a simple yet profound invitation: “Come and see.” Jesus wants to relieve our deep aching and give us God. Meister Eckhart says, “Jesus came to bring us the blessedness that is ours.” Jesus’ mission is to wake us up to the God who is already with us, within us, one with us. Throughout his ministry, and in his death and resurrection, Jesus communicates his experience of God, awakening us to the God Within. He calls forth the experience of the Mystery from within each of us. Then, as Bruno Barnhart, a Camaldolese monk says, we are “liberated into God by the indwelling love of God.”

The two disciples want to experience what they sense in Jesus, namely, the divine. That is the deep and infinite fulfillment of our inner aching for the beyond because the divine is not one more thing in this world by truly beyond all of it! The question of the disciples reflects back to us: where are we rooted? Are we at home in God or are we preoccupied with our many, multiplying, distracting desires? Will we root ourselves in the Beyond? Practically, the question for us is, will we pray? And will we remain faithful to prayer despite the times it feels dry, boring, and like we wasted our time?

We have a mission as disciples of Jesus: we are to give God away, too. And we give God by radiating God. This will happen only when we are living our relationship with God by prayer and by loving others. Then, with Jesus, we can ask others, friends and family, “what are you looking for?” And, equally, we can say, “Come and see.”