We can identify with Jesus' first disciples
in Sunday's Gospel (John 1:35-42). Who hasn't experienced and treasured
a moment of discovery in their lives - something both surprising and
In this case, three men discover that the man
they'd known only as a carpenter, a fellow disciple of John the Baptizer,
is actually the Messiah whom Jews had been anticipating for centuries.
After his eye-opening en-counter with Jesus,
Andrew seeks out his brother Simon and tells him, "We have found the
Messiah." Andrew quickly brings Simon to Jesus, who says, "You are
Simon, son of John; your name shall be Cephas (which is translated
It's significant that John the Evangelist
immediately tells us about Simon's name change. It goes hand-in-glove with
the "discovery dimension" of the narrative.
Considering the biblical belief that someone's
name is synonymous with someone's personality, Simon is no longer Simon
once he finds out who Jesus really is. Such a discovery will change anyone
who experiences it.
In the same way, Paul's reason for speaking
against sexual immorality springs from his discovery that the Christian is
part of the body of Christ (I Corinthians 6:13-20).
Remember how Luke de-scribes Paul's
conversion in Acts 9? The basis of his turn-about revolves around the
discovery that the people he'd been persecuting are actually the
manifestation of the risen Jesus. The line that determines the rest of the
Apostle's life and ministry is Jesus' statement, "I am Jesus whom
you are persecuting!" (9:5)
That insight forces Saul/Paul not only to look
at himself with different eyes, but also to begin seeing Christians from a
totally different perspective. There's an identification between the risen
Jesus and the Christian which even today we rarely acknowledge.
Thankfully, Paul, as a good Christian, believes
and acts on this. But, as a good Jew, he also is convinced of the teaching
found in the earliest tradition of Genesis: Two people become one body
That's why he can't understand how Christ's
members can become "members of a prostitute." As his reminds the
Corinthian community, "You must know that your body is a temple of the
Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your
From his Jewish tradition, Paul believes the
prostitute and the "client" become one. From his Christian
tradition, Paul believes that, if that client is a Christian, that person is
already one with Jesus. That can only mean that Christ has become one with
the prostitute. The implications boggle his faith.
What a discovery that identification with the
risen Jesus must have been for Jesus' first disciples. Not only were they
preaching Jesus' death and resurrection, but also, by imitating those two
events, their bodies were joined to the body of the risen Jesus. What
happened to one automatically happened to the other.
Essential to any discovery is the ability to
listen. Those who go through life with preconceived notions about what they're
going to see or hear will see and hear only what they're expecting -
guaranteeing a non-discovery life.
That's why the author of I Samuel makes a big
thing about Yahweh's first speaking to Samuel (I Samuel 3:3-10,19). After
describing the "Abbot and Costello" exchange between the young boy
and the priest Eli, the writer zeroes in on the core of the passage.
"If you are called," the priest eventually tells the boy,
"reply, 'Speak, Yahweh, your servant is listening!"
In this context of discovery, it's good to
remember the second-century comment of St. Ignatius of Antioch: "I
listen. I learn. I teach." Our sacred authors believed that faith
discoveries must be preceded by lots of listening. If not, our faith
teaching will quickly become suspect.