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What are You Looking For? – 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

The scripture readings for this Sunday are among the ones I often recommend to women and men on retreat. First Samuel with the famous words: Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening. John 1 with the dialogue between Jesus and his first disciples: Jesus asks, What are your looking for? What a central question!

His future disciples ask, Where are you staying? Jesus replies, Come and see. Samuel’s initial call invites us to listen carefully to God. That listening stance is the basis of prayer. Even when we think we are listening, there is often an obstacle, something preventing us from really listening.

Am I too focused on what I’m trying to say to God or myself? Am I too preoccupied with what I need to do or say to someone else? Do I already know what I’m going to hear from God? The Gospel reading invites us to ponder what we desire: what are you looking for?

Regardless of how often the person has been on retreat, I always start with desire. I’m asking them to ponder what they are looking for: in life, in this particular time of prayer, in their relationships.

These are both essential features of a relationship with God: a stance of receptive listening and a realization of what I am looking for. What I looked for on a retreat three years ago may look radically different from what I want at this time.

People who bring serious reflection to the question of what they desire don’t usually speak of their desire for a new car or a fancier house. They don’t speak of new crystal or a fancy watch. Rather, people speak of peace, health for self and others, a desire to be more appreciative for what they have, and so on.

What do I really and most seriously want? Peace. The end of stress in my life. Health for my grandchild. Just one more year for that friend who has terminal cancer: O Lord, help her to be able to hold her first grandchild. Others wish that they had the foresight or time to speak of love to someone.

An end to the tension in my personal world. A guarantee that my employment will last until I am ready to retire. To stay healthy enough to work and to enjoy my retirement. Those are the things we really desire.

I was recently glancing at a couple of Christmas photo cards that I received from family or friends. The photos show the family or the grandchildren standing in a favourite vacation spot or relaxing. One shows a child, born to a young woman who has tried for years to get pregnant.

None of the photos show someone working at their desk, or surrounded by their work colleagues or the new computer they have received from their employer. Our deepest desires are usually not possessions.

You have likely seen quotes from Steve Jobs, of Apple fame, in which he reflects on his life and riches in light of his approaching death (several years ago) from cancer. I have a few favourites, but I recently came across one that was new to me.

I have come to the pinnacle of success in business. In the eyes of others, my life has been the symbol of success. However, apart from work, I have little joy. Finally, my wealth is simply a fact to which I am accustomed.

At this time, lying on the hospital bed and remembering all my life, I realize that all the accolades and riches of which I was once so proud, have become insignificant with my imminent death. In the dark, when I look at green lights, of the equipment for artificial respiration and feel the buzz of their mechanical sounds, I can feel the breath of my approaching death looming over me.

Only now do I understand that once you accumulate enough money for the rest of your life, you have to pursue objectives that are not related to wealth. It should be something more important: For example, stories of love, art, dreams of my childhood. No, stop pursuing wealth, it can only make a person into a twisted being, just like me.

God has made us one way, we can feel the love in the heart of each of us, and not illusions built by fame or money, like I made in my life, I cannot take them with me. I can only take with me the memories that were strengthened by love.

This is the true wealth that will follow you; will accompany you, he will give strength and light to go ahead. Love can travel thousands of miles and so life has no limits. Move to where you want to go. Strive to reach the goals you want to achieve. Everything is in your heart and in your hands.

I invite you to take time today to reflect on what you want … what you most truly want. What will I do about that this year?