The gospel today brings in three practical guides to living.
The two disciples who started to follow Jesus asked him: “Teacher, where do you stay?”
First, they considered Jesus as a “teacher” (rabbi). Jesus has been addressed as “rabbi” at least 56 times in the bible. One of these comes from Peter during the Transfiguration: “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” (Mk 9: 5). Another one comes from Nicodemus: “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him” (Jn 3:2). The most famous comes from Mary Magdalene at the resurrection when Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ’Rabbouni!’ (Jn 20: 16).
But the question seems to be intrusive. It might not pass today’s “data privacy” criteria where people do not easily give out personal information. It was just their first encounter with Jesus, and they immediately wanted to know where he lived.
But on a deeper look, we also know that teachers are credible not only because of their brilliance but also because of their personal lives. We look up to our teachers not because they are teachers but because they are witnesses. So we ask: “Where do you live? How do you live?” Because life is much more a teacher than knowledge.
I have been under many great teachers. But there are only a few whom I will never forget. It is because we have become friends. They know what is going on inside me even without me saying it. Moreover, I also know them — where they lived, and how they lived their lives.
I will always remember my Grade Four teacher. After singing in a GMRC class which was practically a short program held once a week, she said: “You have a loud voice. You can become a good priest.” She did not say “You have a good voice” which I also know I do not have. But she said something I will never forget: that I can be a priest. She articulated a deep desire in my young heart even before I could name it myself. She knew what was inside me even before I could even express it.
At Adamson University, I remember two great teachers of science: Mrs. Nograles and Ms. Laguimon. They did not only teach me about science. They taught me about life. They have become my friends. So, when I presided over their funerals, I thanked them and said: “I stand before them today because they once stood before me and taught me about life.”
A famous phrase comes from St. Paul VI: “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.” (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 41).
If we want to share the good news, beyond the pulpit or the classroom or publications is “person to person evangelization”, the dialogue of life. It is here where we can touch lives. And in return, we can be evangelized ourselves. I can never count the times when my students have taught me things I have never learned and could never learn elsewhere.
2. “COME AND SEE”
In response, Jesus invited them to “come and see”. The gospel said: “They stayed with him the whole day.
And John wrote an interesting sentence right after: “It was about four in the afternoon.” This is quite a curious detail. The experience must have made an impact on him that he and his community remembered what time it was when they started writing the narratives decades later.
I have met many of my students years after they graduated. They would relate a story I have already forgotten, funny and touching anecdotes about their classmates or their class.
This is one of the “uses” of class reunions: to be inspired and rekindled once more by stories of our lives, the stories which have formed us, and continue to form us even decades after.
The more details we remember, the more we create an impact on the lives of others, and the more we touch their lives.
3. “WE HAVE FOUND THE MESSIAH!”
Andrew who was one of those disciples went to his brother Simon and told him the news: “We have found the Messiah.” Then, Peter followed Jesus. Jesus’ life must have touched them so much. It made them decide that he was the one they had been waiting for.
In another part of the gospel, the disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus and said: “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, those with a skin disease are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them” (Mt. 11: 3-5).
There is a story of Joshua ben Levi who asked Elijah, the prophet who announced the messianic age, “When will the Messiah come?”
“Go and ask him himself,” Elijah replied.
“Where is he sitting?”
“At the gates of the city.”
“What will identify him?”
“He is sitting among the poor lepers; while all of them untie all their bandages at once, and rebandage them together, he unties and rebandages each separately, before treating the next, saying ‘I might be needed, so I must not be delayed.’ ” Elijah replied.
The Messiah is also a leper, someone wounded like the rest of us, but one who is willing to set aside one’s own wounds, and hurries to untie and rebandage the wounds of others beside her.
Vincent de Paul once said: “Go to the poor ten times a day, and ten times you will see God there.” So, “run to them as to a fire.”
Homily of Fr. Daniel Franklin Pilario, C.M. at the Adamson University High School Alumni Homecoming. Sunday Gospel: John 1: 35-42.