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What are you looking for?

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... when they first spoke with Jesus, he asked them a very straightforward question, "What are you looking for?" The answer they gave isn't what most of us would expect.

Jaymie Stuart
Wolfe

Last week's Gospel reminded me of something that happened rather frequently when I was a child. My mother or grandmother would ask me to bring something to them. Usually, it was something familiar and easy to find, like a sponge under the kitchen sink or a fresh roll of paper towels. But every once in a while, the go-and-get-it request involved something unfamiliar to me. That's when the directions I was given would become very specific: "Go into the laundry room, and open the steel cabinet. On the left side of the second shelf, there is a tube of glue with a red cap. Bring that to me."

Sometimes, the errand went off without a hitch. But it wasn't uncommon for me to completely forget the directions I was given between hearing them and getting to the place where I could follow them. I'd run back, without whatever it was I was supposed to bring, and ask for the directions all over again. This time, they'd be peppered with questions just to be sure I was listening and understood: "Go into the laundry room. Do you know where the steel cabinet is?" I'd answer or nod. "Open it. Do you know how to turn the handle?" Again, I'd answer. "On the second shelf from the top ... on the left side ... there are cans of spray paint and tubes of glue, you know, like toothpaste. Get the tube with the red cap." Off I'd go again.

If I still couldn't find what I was looking for, I'd return and say it wasn't there. My mom or grandma would humph an exasperated humph, and then go along with me to find what I'd be looking for. That walk was often accompanied by the same empty threat, "When I find it, I'm going to hit you over the head with it." Almost always, the item was exactly where I had been told to look, or close enough that anyone with a pair of working eyes should have found it easily.

When John the Baptizer stood at the edge of the Jordan and pointed out Jesus as the Lamb of God, he set at least two of his disciples on a search that would change their lives forever. John told them exactly where to find salvation. But when they first spoke with Jesus, he asked them a very straightforward question, "What are you looking for?" The answer they gave isn't what most of us would expect. They didn't say, "The Lamb of God," "The Messiah," or even "John sent us." Instead, they asked, "Where are you staying?" They knew that their deepest longings were more "who" than "what."

I think there are a lot of us who have been told to follow Christ all our lives, but we are still not sure how. Somewhere between receiving instruction in the faith and actually living it out, we forget what we were supposed to be looking for or where to find it. To many of us, practicing our faith may feel more like running an errand for someone else than pursuing our own life's journey. But the God who made us understands. He knows that even with very specific and detailed directions, few of us will find what we're looking for or even recognize it when we see it. He also knows that there are a lot of us who give up before we find what we're looking for, and then just decide that it was never there at all.

That is why, Jesus' response to Andrew's question on that day 2,000 years ago didn't sound anything like the directions you might get from a gas station attendant when you're lost. Instead of preaching an abbreviated Sermon on the Mount or working a miracle, Jesus invited them to "come and see." That invitation is given to each one of us. Come and see where to find what you are really looking for. Come and see where Jesus remains. And don't worry, he won't hit you over the head when he goes with you, and shows you how he was there all along.

Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and serves as a senior editor at Ave Maria Press. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.

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