Latin Sermon 2022
In versibus evangelii hodierni Jesus verba dicit quae per omnia haec tempora personant: Venite et videte.
Diebus Adventus audivimus Jesum ad turbas de Johanne Baptista dicere, ‘Quid existis in desertum videre?’ Die natali Jesu Christi pastores dixerunt, ‘Transeamus usque Bethleem et videamus … quod fecit Dominus et ostendit nobis.’ Die Epiphaniae magi ex oriente Herodi regi dixerunt, ‘Ubi est qui natus est rex Judaeorum? Vidimus enim stellam eius in oriente et venimus adorare eum.’ Hodie Baptista Jesum discipulis demonstravit et illis cum ad eum advenissent dicentes, ‘Ubi habitas?’ Jesus dixit, ‘Venite et videte.’
Thema fecundum est ad hoc tempus viae anniversariae nostrae fidei. Per tempora Adventus, festa nativitatis, Epiphaniae, cogitavimus semper de adventu domini nostri. Hodie Evangelista nos monet de itinere quod facere debemus si obviam alicui ire volumus: in desertum, in Bethleem, per unum gradum a Johanne factum ad Jesum.
Idem accidit si rem novam videre volumus. Omnes enim interdum rem nuper conspectam intellexisse arbitrati posthac respicimus et illius imaginis dissimilem invenimus quae nobis ostendere videbatur. Sicut in horto fodientes glaebam pulvere extersa gemmam videmus, vel vocis vix auditae significatione inexspectata subito commovemur.
Nihil tamen percipimus nisi studio et vigore; labor autem patefacit maiora quam sperabamus.
In evangelio hodierno multa videnda sunt. Fideles autem adjuvat quod haec narratio Sancti Johannis de discipulis a Jesu vocatis multis minus nota est. Plurimis fidelibus notiores sunt narrationes Sancti Matthei, Marci, Lucae, in quibus Jesus iuxta mare Galilaeae ambulans, Simonem et Andream fratrem in mare rete mittentes videns dixit illis, ‘Venite post me et faciam vos fieri piscatores hominum’; Jesus procedens inde Iacobum et Johannem fratrem retia sua reficientes vidit et vocavit eos.
Quid ergo nos narratio Sancti Johannis vocat venire et videre? Notemus primum primos discipulos Jesum non vocare. Baptista eis dixit Jesum agnum dei esse; et ad Jesum transiverunt. Neque Jesus eos statim benigne excipit sed asperius dicit, ‘Quid quaeritis?’ Qua interrogatione intellegunt se vero aliquid quaerere.
Quae verba thema fiunt totius evangelii. Eis qui Jesum videre volunt – vel ipsum quomodocumque dispicere vel etiam cur eum sequi debeat sentire – opus est quaerere.
Nisi quaesiveris, dicit Evangelista, nullum habebis cernentiam; cernentia tibi quasi caecitati erit.
Tunc tamen Evangelista monstrat plurimos nihil nisi auxilio videre. Sicut Baptista: ‘Ego nesciebam eum, sed … vidi Spiritum descendentem quasi columbam de caelo et mansit super eum.’ Propheta etiam Johannes sapientiam Dei in mysterio absconditam non percepit, solum se scivit Messiam quaerere. Nec discipuli Johannis primo visu Jesum agnoverunt, sed unus, Andreas, cum fratrem Simonem invenisset, dicit, ‘Invenimus Messiam,’ quod est interpretatum Christum. Ad eum accessimus, eum visum agnovimus. Sic Simon qui Petrus vocatur discipulus fit.
Alia res aliam sequitur. Evangelista nos docet: non solum, si quaerimus, ipsos percipere posse sed quemque proximo auxilium ferre, sicut membrum membro corporis unius, quo percipiat. Alter alterum naturam Jesu profundius cognoscere adiuvat, et doctrinam et exemplum; quisque aliquem quod in mysterio absconditum sit cernere adiuvat: in Jesu Christo Deum, Deum per Jesum mundum sibi reconciliantem. Sicut corpus unum, inter nos dicimus, venite, videte. Exemplo etiam nostro aliis persuadere conamur ut fides nostra dignior sit profundius cognosci.
Profundius tamen videre aut cognoscere exercitatio magna est. Discipuli primi ad tres annos cum Jesu vivebant, nec cognoscebant quem viderent. Quod indicat cum videre discimus et confidere discimus. Quid inventuri simus ac quomodo nos conversuri fiamus nescimus, sed tamquam pastores et magos Evangelista nos vocat, Venite, videte. Quod superest, per narrationem evangelii hodierni, Jesus nobis venientibus et videntibus eventum paulum revelat.
Cum Andreas Simonem Jesu primum commendaverit, quid viderit Simon non audimus. Narrat potius Evangelista Jesum in Simonem intuitum dicere, ‘Tu es Simon filius Iohanna, tu vocaberis Cephas.’ In puncto illo temporis Jesus non solum Simonis naturam visit sed potentiam, et videns fieri fecit. Quod thema alium evangelii totius factum est: Jesus in corda hominum profunde intuitus revelat multa eis incognita quae ingenia eorum transfigurat. Quae potentia est et videre et videri!
Ultimum ergo ex evangelio hodierno praeceptum est: cum ad Jesum venimus et videmus nos numquam soli vidimus. In nos in evangelium intuentes Deus Pater et Filius intuentur, naturam et potentiam nostram inspectantes.
Haec fortasse pars gravissima laboris est nobis venientibus et videntibus: pati videri et quae Deus in cordibus nostris videt, in nobis videre incipere – potestatem superantem omnem intellectum – humanitatis potentiam – vitae abundantiam – decoris perfectionem – ut Deo ipsi et Jesu similiores fiamus quam per nos concipere possimus.
Iam nos, qui in medio tempore Epiphaniorum, finemque temporis hiemalis apocalypsis accessimus, Evangelista rogat, Quid quaeritis? Magistrum? Exemplum? Prophetam? Messiam? Deum? Venite, videte. Venite, videmini.
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus says something which has resonated throughout the last two months: ‘Come and see’.
During Advent, we heard Jesus ask a crowd, about John the Baptist, ‘What did you go out into the desert to see?’ Then on Christmas night, we heard the shepherds say, ‘Let us go to Bethlehem, and see’ [this baby we have heard of]. At Epiphany, the wise men said to King Herod, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star, and have come to pay him homage.’ Today, John the Baptist points Jesus out to his own disciples, and when they approach Jesus, saying, ‘Where are you staying?’ Jesus says, ‘Come and see.’
It is a fertile theme for this point in our seasonal journey. The message of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, is above all about how Jesus Christ comes to us. But the gospel also reminds us that to meet someone new, we too have to act: go into the desert, travel to Bethlehem, take one small step over from John to Jesus.
The same is true of seeing something new. We have all had the experience of being shown something and looking casually at it, and then looking again, and seeing not just what we assume is there, but what is actually there. Seeing what is below the surface, or seeing the implications of what we’re looking at, and being surprised, and changed. Really seeing takes a bit of energy, and action, but it can show us more than we dreamed was there.
In today’s gospel, there’s quite a lot to see. And it is helpful that John’s version of this story—the call of the first disciples—is not the one that most of us know best. Most of us think of this story in the synoptic gospels: Jesus seeing Simon and Andrew fishing, and saying, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ Jesus seeing James and John mending their nets and calling them.
What is John’s version inviting us to come and see? For a start, John’s Jesus doesn’t call his first disciples. John the Baptist tells them that Jesus is the Lamb of God, and they go over to him. And Jesus doesn’t immediately welcome them: he asks, ‘What are you looking for?’ He makes them realize that they are looking for something.
That becomes a theme of the whole gospel. To see Jesus—even to glimpse who he is and why he’s worth following—you have got to be looking. If you’re not looking, says the gospel, you may as well be blind.
But the next thing the story says is that no ordinary person sees anything without help. John the Baptist says, ‘I did not know Jesus, but I saw the spirit descending on him like a dove.’ Even as a prophet, John had no special knowledge, but he knew he was looking for the Messiah. John’s disciples don’t recognize Jesus, either, at first. But then one of them, Andrew, goes to his brother Simon and says, ‘We have found the Messiah!’ We went and saw, and we realized what we were looking at. And that’s how Simon Peter becomes a disciple.
It’s a chain reaction. The gospel says, not only can we see, if we make the effort, but we can help each other see, and that is part of what it means to be a community. We help each other to see more deeply into Jesus, his teaching and example. To see below the surface: to see God in Jesus, and God acting through Jesus for our world. As a community, we also invite other people to come and see. We try to show, by the way we live, that there is something about our faith that is worth looking into more deeply.
But looking deeply, and seeing, take practice. Jesus’s first disciples lived alongside him for, maybe, three years, and even they didn’t always understand who they were looking at. And this suggests that coming to see is also always an act of trust. We don’t know exactly what we’re going to find, or how it might change us, but, like the shepherds or the wise men, the gospel invites us to come and see.
Last but not least, in today’s story, Jesus gives us a glimpse of what might happen if we do.
When Andrew brings Simon to Jesus for the first time, we don’t hear what Simon sees. What John tells us is that Jesus looks at him and says, ‘You are Simon, son of John. You are to be called Cephas’—Peter, the rock. In that moment, Jesus sees not just who Simon is, but who he can be; and by seeing it, he begins to make it happen. This becomes another theme of the gospel: Jesus looking deeply into people and telling them things they don’t know about themselves, which change who they can become. That is how powerful seeing is.
So the last lesson of today’s gospel is that when we respond to the invitation to come and see Jesus Christ, we are never the only ones looking. As we look into the gospel, God and Christ are looking into us; seeing who we are, and who we could be. And it may be that that’s the most important part of coming and seeing: letting ourselves be seen, and beginning to see what God sees in us. All the potential that we hardly begin to see in ourselves—to be more fully human, more abundantly alive, more gloriously fulfilled, more like Christ and Godself than we could dream of being, by ourselves.
So, as we come towards the end of the season of revelation, today’s gospel asks us, What are you looking for? A teacher? An example? A prophet? A saviour? Godself? Come and see.
Come and be seen.