John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world… Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”
—John 1:29, 34
In a recent article in America, actor Andrew Garfield shared some of his experiences as he made the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola under the direction of Jesuit Father James Martin. The 30-day retreat was part of his preparation to play the role of a Jesuit priest in Martin Scorsese’s adaption of Shusaku Endo’s astoundingly beautiful novel Silence.
When asked what stood out for him in his experience of the Spiritual Exercises, Garfield recalled, “What was really easy was falling in love with this person, was falling in love with Jesus Christ. That was the most surprising thing.”
Brendan Busse, S.J., who interviewed Garfield, continued:
He fell silent at the thought of it, clearly moved to emotion. He clutched his chest, just below the sternum, somewhere between his gut and his heart, and what he said next came out through bursts of laughter: “God! That was the most remarkable thing—falling in love, and how easy it was to fall in love with Jesus.”
This idea of falling in love with Jesus was recently brought into focus for me when my spiritual director asked me about my own relationship with Jesus, remarking that knowing Jesus Christ has to be the foundation of our spiritual lives. And so, over these past days I’ve been looking back over my own spiritual and vocational journey, reflecting on when and how I came to know Jesus and what it means to be in love with him.
Who first introduced you to Jesus? For most of us, the answer is probably a parent or grandparent when we were children. That’s certainly true for me, as I think of my Grandma Henderson.
For others of us, it might have been someone later in life. It might have been a friend when we were in high school of college. Maybe someone you were dating or your spouse helped you come to know Jesus of Nazareth.
In this Sunday’s Gospel—a sort of continuation of the story of the baptism of Jesus—we find John the Baptist introducing his followers to Jesus, as he tells them: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world… I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon him… Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.” Without hesitation, John is telling his disciples that the One he said would come was now among them. John’s work was complete. He had prepared the way and God had fulfilled the promises made to their ancestors. In the verses that follow the Gospel passage proclaimed this Sunday, we hear how Andrew and another of John’s followers left John behind to set out on a new way of life with Jesus (John 1:35-40).
John the Baptist dedicated his life to helping prepare hearts and minds to welcome God’s Promised One. In a sense, this mission has also been entrusted to each of us. After all, aren’t we commissioned to proclaim the Good News to everyone we meet?
In his book, Bread for the Journey, Henri Nouwen reflects on why this mission of proclaiming the Good News is essential for every Christian: “We must go out because we want to share with all people the abundant love and hope, joy and peace that Jesus brought to us… What we have received is so beautiful and so rich that we cannot hold it for ourselves but feel compelled to bring it to every human being we meet.”
While it might be hard to think of ourselves as prophets, that’s exactly what we are called to be. Each Christian has the special task of helping proclaim how God is at work in the world today to help people recognize how Christ is still offering the God’s mercy and love. This is a message that we need to proclaim and hear more than ever, particularly as we try to make sense of so much that is sense-less in the world today.
Who are significant people that have helped you grow in your relationship with Jesus?
What does it mean for you to be called to be a prophet in the world today? How is God asking you to help others recognize His presence and grace in the world?
How do others share in the peace, joy, and love that come from your relationship with Jesus?
Words of Wisdom: “Early Christians, as they brought this message to the world, saw themselves as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, ‘I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation will reach to the ends of the earth.’ This remains our mission today. Imagine a world in which every word from every throat was a promise to love without fear, even fear of death. That is God’s dream for humanity. That was the message that came upon Jesus. That is our challenge as bearers of God’s Spirit to the world.”—Michael Simone, S.J.