JOHN 1: 35 – 42
Many years ago I was asked to go to our Dominican mission in South America. While I said yes to this request, a perplexing thought wandered through my mind. Christianity had come to South America hand in hand with the sword. The missionaries had sometimes arrived in the same boats as the powerful conquerors and were generally of the same race. The conquest, like all conquests, was devastating for the native peoples: they were stripped of their land and property, and their culture was almost obliterated.
When I arrived in Argentina, I reflected on the life style of the sisters I had joined. They lived in a small house – no air-conditioning, no phones. In fact, they had to travel about two hours to make a phone call. Our house was the same as those around us. We were inserted into the local community as much as was humanly possible. The people around us were indigenous people or were of indigenous descent. The sisters had neither power nor possessions, and their style of evangelization made me think of the Lamb of God. The people spoke about how they had formed relationships with the sisters, how they had become familiar with the Gospel, how the sisters had led them to be aware of their own dignity and to appreciate their own culture. In a sense, they were led back to their own land.
In John 1:19, we are told that John the Baptist stared at Jesus and drew the attention of his disciples to him saying ,”Look, here is the Lamb of God.” In directing his disciples towards Jesus, John the Baptist was decreasing his own importance and status; he was himself resembling the Lamb of God. The title given by the Baptist to Jesus may have reminded the disciples of the Paschal Lamb, that fragile defenceless creature that was used to save their ancestors from the mighty pharaoh. Their ancestors were subsequently led to freedom – freedom to be themselves, to worship without fear and to live in their own land. John the Baptist’s disciples did look at the Lamb of God and began to follow him. Jesus asked them a very direct question: “What are you looking for?” Andrew simply asked Jesus where he lived, yet, later when Andrew met his brother Peter he was no longer interested in the house or place where Jesus lived. He said, ‘We have found the Messiah.’ He then led his brother to Jesus. This time it is Jesus who does the looking – we are told that Jesus ‘looked hard ‘ at Peter and saw in him the future shepherd who would feed the lambs and sheep.
It is good to recall people and situations that have led us to focus our gaze on Jesus Christ. Recently, I heard part of a radio program about the group U2. A pastor from the north of Ireland once described how he had been impacted spiritually at the age of eighteen by a song that was sung by U2. At a later stage in his life, when he had become a pastor, he listened again to U2’s music. He felt that they no longer reflected the Christian message in their music. However, he decided to listen to their music over a longer stretch of time, and at the end of that period he said emphatically, ”I wish I had the faith of those who produce these songs. ”I feel that the style of preaching that the pastor encountered in U2 was the style of the Lamb: it was strong and unobtrusive and brought about a faith experience in him.
Come to think of it, people are led to the lord in a myriad of ways: the whole of creation beckons us to him. I am grateful to all those people who remind us of the Lord and who gently wrap around us a Christian culture; those who make the sign of the cross as they pass a church, the woman who makes the sign of the cross on the bread before she bakes it, the person who rings the Angelus bell, those who put up a crib at Christmas. We recognise that many parents through their Christian way of life lead their children to know Christ, as do those people who prepare children and adults for the sacraments. I ask the Lord to keep us in tune with all the ways through which he speaks to us and leads us to himself.
Sr Kathleen Egan OP.