“What are you looking for?”1 These were the first words recorded of Jesus in the Gospel of St. John. Of course, they mean much more than the immediate words on the page. In fact, the words are reminiscent of the first words of God to Adam and Eve in the opening book of the Bible, Genesis: “Where are you?”2 Both questions were posed by God, with his already knowing the answer, and intending to turn a light upon our own longing and searching as human beings. In the case of St. John’s Gospel, we find in the preceding prologue a paradox presented to us, in that the glory of God is not immediately found where we would expect, or perhaps even prefer.
“And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth,” St. John wrote in that same prologue.3 The Church has us to meditate upon this passage in light of the coming of Christ at Christmas. This glory, though, that St. John wrote about, it was the glory of an infant babe in a manger. Yes, it was the glory of a helpless baby in the arms of his mother, without a home or a bed. This? This is the glory of God? Where is the power? Where is the might, the riches? These questions we may ask upon seeing this paradoxical scenario. “What are you looking for?” the Infant Jesus seems to ask us in reply.
Suddenly, we are struck with the mercy and the love of God in his humility. If the angel Lucifer fell because of his heights of pride, the Incarnation was the perfectly opposite act of God. If Adam and Eve’s first disobedience was due to their desire to “become like gods,”4 God in an opposite manner became human for them and for us. This is the Divine Mercy: the Word of God become flesh, and him dwelling among us. The Son of God became the Son of Man, and in so doing, made himself subject to human beings, completely reliant on others, and placing himself in obedience to the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph, eventually to his condemners and, finally, to death itself. He “emptied himself, taking on the form of a slave,” as St. Paul put it.5
For love of the world, God sent his only Son.6 “To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave the power to become children of God, born […] of God.”7 In complete poverty, the glory of God was shown into the world as a light to all nations. Through perfect obedience, Christ made present the love of God to us. (Amazingly, Christ continues to do this today in the substance of consecrated bread and wine, in the Eucharist). Thus, Jesus seems to ask us continually, “What are you looking for?” Are we looking for glory in all the places and ways in which the world expects? Or, are we looking for glory in the One who emptied himself of all that the world finds glorious, in order just to be near us? Rather, are we looking for him who longs to be with us? May we recognize him where he may be found, that we may follow him to share in his final glory when he comes again.
1 John 1:38 NRSVCE
2 Gen. 3:9
3 John 1:14
4 Gen. 3:5
5 Phil. 2:5-7
6 John 3:16
7 ibid. 1:12-13