Recollection Material – January 2023 “TOGETHER” IN FOLLOWING”
Jn. 1:35 – 42.
Upon beginning a new year, we begin a new theme for our monthly recollections. In view of the fact that the word chosen for the general government for this year is “TOGETHER” , the same shall serve as the hinge to direct the diverse reflections of our recollections. We have prepared for this year an Augustinian Recollect spiritual itinerary that takes as its point of departure the communitarian communion that the word “together” expresses, in such a way that the many steps we take this year in our monthly recollections may help us grow, strengthen and love more and more the communion of our community. This month we will reflect on our own vocation. We have been called by Jesus to follow him, to have a profound experience of his love, an affection that, as it happened with St. Augustine, transforms us, enrobes us with the novelty of the Gospel and makes us witnesses of the salvific action of God in the midst of our brothers. Thus, as St. Augustine said: “we journey together along the paths of love in search of him of whom it is written: “Seek his face always” (trin. 1, 3, 5).
Return to yourself.
Let us now dispose ourselves to live this day of recollection, by putting ourselves in the presence of God. We live together in the community, convoked by the voice of the Holy Spirit with the desire to possess only one soul and only one heart directed towards God.
Taste and see how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to live as one! These words of the Psalter, this sweet sound, this grateful melody in the canticle as well as in the understanding, gave birth to monasteries. This is the voice that encouraged the brothers who yearned to live united. This verse was the trumpet call for them. It sounded through the orb of the earth, and those who were dispersed became congregated. The call of God, the call of the Holy Spirit, the prophetic call was not heard in Judea, but it was heard through the whole orb of the earth (…) What does in one mean, or in union, or united? That they had only one soul, and only one heart directed towards God. Grant us, O Lord, to have in our communities unanimity and concord in God, through Jesus Christ our Lord (en. Ps. 132, 2).
Your voice is my joy. Accept and meditate on the Word of God that today illumines our day of recollection, and that invites us to meditate on our own vocation. Christ it is who continuously calls us every day.
35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples, 36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” 37 The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher,), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about four in the afternoon. 40 Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). 42 Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter). +
The firmament of the Scriptures.
The so called narrative preface of John’s Gospel closes with the call of the first disciples: Andrew and Peter, Philip and Nathanael and an unknown disciple. The vocation of these disciples is presented by John as an element of the first steps of Jesus. After being baptized and presented as the Lamb of God by John the Baptist, two of his disciples decide to follow Jesus (v. 37). One is Andrew, the other we can think that he is the beloved disciple. These disciples of the Baptist listen to the master and before the acknowledgement he makes of Jesus as the Lamb of God, they decide to follow him.
Jesus is conscious that these two persons are following him, and asks them: What are you looking for? What do you want? The response of the disciples is a total surprise: Rabbi, where do you live? (v. 38). They recognize him as master and they are asking to be admitted as his disciples, they want to know everything about the master so they can live like him. Jesus receives and accepts them: Come and you will see. In a few phrases those two disciples of the Baptist become the disciples of Jesus. The rest of the day they spent with him – it must have been Friday afternoon that coincides with the beginning of the Sabbath, which would serve as explanation of the fact that they spent the afternoon and the night in the house of Jesus – these are sufficient to make that these two disciples who knew something about Jesus, become believers in him. Come and see, becomes Come that you may believe (v.39).
The effect of this budding faith in the new followers can be verified in the fact that they seek other followers. Andrew goes in search of his brother Simon. Upon finding him, he tells him that they have found the Messiah, i.e. the Christ (v. 41). Peter is surely surprised since he understands of whom he speaks: the Messiah is the promised Savior. Probably Peter had heard the preaching of John, and would have felt frustrated when he said that he was not the Messiah. Now he accompanies his brother to meet that someone who has become his master, and there he also comes converted into a follower of Jesus, up to the point that the Master changes his name to Cefas: Rock (v. 42).
The chapter closes with the presentation of Philip and the call of Nathanael (vv. 43-51), that even though they do not form part of our reflection today, they do re-enforce two essential elements in our meditation. On the one part, the value of the vision as faith: For having said that I saw you under the fig tree, you believe? You will see greater things (v. 50). The material vision gives way to the vision of faith (let us recall the doubt of Thomas in ch. 20). The other element is double: to know Christ and to become his follower: Andrew, the other disciple and Peter meet Christ and become his disciples, in the same way that Philip and Bartholomew do. In the case of each one of them Jesus is presented with the titles as: the Lamb of God (v. 35), as the Messiah (v. 41), the Son of God, the King of Israel (v. 49), but also with a more simple title and which indicates a way of communion: Rabbi, that means Master (v. 38).
The first element that St. Augustine makes clear on commenting upon the biblical text we meditate on, is that John the Baptist does not seek to stay with the disciples, but that he is conscious that his mission is to point out where he is and who it is they must follow, even though many considered him to be the Messiah. The humility of John must sustain us in the pastoral and evangelizing work, not to promote ourselves but to point out to Christ.
Because John was such a friend of the Groom, that he did not seek his own glory, but was giving testimony to the truth. Did he perhaps want that his disciples remain with him instead of following the Lord? On the contrary, he himself pointed out to his disciples whom they ought to follow (Io. eu.. tr. 7, 8).
On the other hand, St. Augustine comments that the reason for following is no other than the search for salvation, since only is Christ is there pardon for sins, since only the Lamb of God can take away the sins of those who follow him and also those of the whole world.
Behold the Lamb of God. And of what profit is the Lamb of God for us? Behold, he affirms, him who takes away the sin of the world (Jn. 1:36). Having heard this, the two who were with John followed him (Io. eu. tr. 7, 8).
2. What are you looking for? (Jn. 1:38).
According to what the Gospel narrates to us, Jesus, upon seeing that these two disciples of John the Baptist were following him, asks them: What are you looking for? (Jn. 1:38).
We have all been called by God through an ineffable gift of his grace, because vocation is above all an unmerited gift from God. Nonetheless, this gift from God does not annihilate the will but prepares it so that we can accomplish what God wants (s. 173, 2). In this way, it would invite us to think first, on the quality of gift that vocation has. God has gratuitously called us to follow his Son Jesus Christ, since this is the essence of vocation. And we follow him responding not only with words but above all with our life.
When does he answer his praise? When those called by him give him thanks. He calls, we respond; not with the voice, but with faith; not with the tongue, but with the life (en. Ps. 101, 2,6).
What are you looking for? St. Augustine has always been classified as the untiring searcher for truth, for life, for happiness, in a word of God. Nonetheless, it is important to keep in mind in the Augustinian search, two elements. In the first place, It must be pointed out that he who incites and moves the human beings’ search is God himself. St. Augustine is convinced that every person carries in his interior a divine yearning which makes the human being, when he is sincere with himself, to go in search of God. Hence come the famous words of St. Augustine at the beginning of the Confessions: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you” (conf. 1, 1).
St. Augustine is conscious that every human being in this life is in search for something or someone. The essential poverty and the limitation of human existence are borne in searching, in desiring, since to be human is to be hungry for life, for happiness, for love. Thus the question of Jesus to the two disciples of John the Baptist: “What are you looking for?” is a question with deep Augustinian flavor. It deals with a question that today is being asked of each one of us, to answer it like they did, not from theory, or from the things that we know from memory, but from the experience of the heart.
On the other hand, it is necessary to point out that the search of St. Augustine is not only an attitude, but a compromise. It is not only an attitude, i.e., it is not only a declaration of intentions, because today there are many persons who call themselves “searchers of God”, but have made of this search a form of life, to have only a collection of experience, without ever arriving at committing themselves to something, nor to someone. They live only seeking to feel or experience. The search of St. Augustine has a purpose: the encounter with God, but God as an unfathomable mystery, an encounter the becomes a new search. It is, therefore, a virtuous circle, where we encounter God and we encounter him, as St. Augustine points out, to continue searching him with greater ardor.
If in the search he can be found, why is it said: “Always seek his face?” (Sal 104, 3-4). He is still to be sought after having been found? In fact that is how incomprehensible realities are to be sought.(…) It is sought so that the discovery may be sweeter, it is found in order to seek it with more eagerness (trin. 15, 2, 2).
3. Rabbi, where do you live?
After Jesus asked John the Baptist’s disciples: What are you looking for?, they answered with another question: Rabbi, where do you live? (Jn. 1:38). The following of Christ always implies an experience, and one cannot remain only in theoretical elements. St. Augustine points out that the two disciples came after Jesus and spent that day with him (Jn. 1:39). According to the Bishop of Hippo, this was the moment of encounter and apprenticeship, thus he cites in his commentary the text of Sirach (Sir. 6: 36-37): Let your feet wear out his doorsteps; arise to come to him assiduously and be instructed by his precepts.
And in his commentary, St. Augustine expresses, on the one hand, his uneasiness for not knowing what they talked about during that whole day. Furthermore, he comments that the encounter with Jesus was so rich and profound, that it not only happened, as the Gospel says, that day (Jn. 1: 39), but that they were there the whole day and night. On the other hand, he expresses his healthy envy, since he comments that for him, he would have desired to have been in the place of those two disciples, and could have spent the whole afternoon and night with Jesus.
He showed them where he was staying; they came and were with him. What a happy day they spent, what a happy night! Who is there to tell us what they heard from the Lord? (Io. eu. tr. 7, 9).
But this healthy envy of St. Augustine becomes an exhortation, since those of us who want to live together the call of Christ, must make a space in our interior so that Christ may come and remain always with us. The Bishop of Hippo invites the believer to build in his heart a temple, so that Christ may come and dwell in it, in such a way that the believer always remains in Christ and Christ in him.
We also must build and must make a dwelling in our heart, so that he may come and teach us; converse with us (Io. eu.tr. 7, 9).
4. The tenth hour.
The experience of the two disciples of John the Baptist with Jesus was so intense and so pleasant, that in the text of the Gospel we are told at what hour the
encounter happened. In this way, the text points out literally that the encounter happened more or less at the tenth hour (Jn. 1:39). St. Augustine does not allow this detail to pass by unperceived, and he comments that the tenth hour makes reference to the Ten Commandments. We deal here with some commandments that the human being cannot fulfill by his own strength alone, but only with the help of God’s grace. The Law of the Old Testament was a Law of fear, while that of the New Testament is the Law of love.
Do we suppose that the Evangelist had no intention of telling us what time it was? Could it be that he did not want us to pay attention to something, that we do not seek something? It was the tenth hour. This number refers to the Law, because the Law was given in Ten Precepts. Well then, the time has come when the Law must be fulfilled through love, because the Jews could not fulfill it with fear (Io. eu.tr. 7, 10).
Nonetheless, St. Augustine does not detain himself in the commandments of the Old Law, but points out that the plenitude of that Law is love, and that Christ not only is the Teacher of the Law, but that he teaches us not to remain in the letter of the Law, but to seek mercy. The advice of St. Augustine is very rich. In following Jesus and the fact of living together his following, the important thing is mercy and love, not the servile fulfillment of the Law. In synthesis, in the following of Christ, the important thing is love.
(…) he is the Teacher of the Law and he teaches it. And there is mercy in his tongue; that is why he teaches the Law mercifully, as it is said of Wisdom: “Well then, he carries mercy and law in the tongue (Prov. 31:26). Fear not that you cannot fulfill the Law; take refuge in mercy (Io. eu. tr. 7, 10).
Five urgent texts from the Constitutions: Together in the following.
1. “The purpose of the Order of Augustinian Recollects is that which is proper to an order or religious family brought into being in response to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and approved by the authority of the Church: its members, living in community as brothers, desire to follow and to imitate Christ, poor, obedient, and chaste, as He himself proposed in the Gospel for the observance of his disciples” (n. 6).
2. “The central objective of the formation process is the preparation of the person for the total consecration of himself to God in the following of Christ, and in the service of the mission, according to the charism of the Order” (n. 130).
3. “The experience of meeting the Master and of his unmerited call are the origin of every vocation to a life of following Jesus, a life which demands openness and fidelity to the Word” (n. 155).
4. “To follow Christ, radically living the Gospel in the common life and practicing the evangelical counsels, is the fundamental guideline of our way of life” (n. 514).
5. “The vocational call must always begin from a catechesis of proclamation that leads people to an experience of God and underlines the beauty of following Christ with an explicit intent: “Come and see” (Jn. 1:46), in imitation of the Master” (n. 156).
From the Word to the Action.
What does it imply for you: the fact that your vocation is a con-vocation (i.e., a vocation to live together in community)?
How do you respond to the question that Jesus addresses to John’s disciples? What do you seek in following Jesus?
How is the experience that you have of Christ? What does the phrase “come and you will see” imply for you that the Gospel cites?
Blessed is he who loves you Lord, who loves the friend in you, and the enemy for you, because he cannot lose the friend, who has everyone as friend in him who cannot be lost. And who is this but our God, the God who made heaven and earth, and what fills them, because filling them he created them? No one, Lord, loses you but he who leaves you. But when he leaves you, where will he go, where will he flee, but tranquil from you, angry at you? But where will he not find the law for his punishment? Because your law is truth, and you are the truth. Help us, Lord, to live together in community, with only one soul and one heart directed towards you (conf. 4, 14). +