“WHAT AM I LOOKING FOR?” (Jn 1:35-42): 04 January 2008 (Elizabeth Ann Seton, Friday)

“WHAT AM I LOOKING FOR?” (Jn 1:35-42):  04 January 2008 (Elizabeth Ann Seton, Friday)


There is an interesting and moving scene in J,K. Rowling’s first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  In one of the dark and mysterious chambers of Hogwarts, Harry chances upon a dark and mysterious mirror, a mirror unlike any mirror he has ever seen before, a mirror that shows more than just one’s reflection.

This mirror, he is later told, is called the Mirror of Erised.  Erised, spelled backwards, is, of course, “Desire.”  And it is an appropriate name, for the mirror reveals one’s deepest and even most secret desire.  When the orphan Harry Potter gazes into this mirror, he sees himself reunited with his father and mother—truly his deepest desire.

In today’s gospel reading, Jesus turns around to face the two disciples who have been following him, and he asks them, “What are you looking for?”  Our Lord isn’t just asking a simple question, of course, but a most profound one.  He is asking them what their hearts’ deepest desires are.  It is almost as if the words of the Lord have suddenly placed the disciples before the Mirror of Erised.  Stunned, the disciples end up asking about–of all things–his address.

It’s the question that I choose to ask myself today:  “What am I looking for?  What is my heart’s deepest desire?”

Maybe as we begin this new year, you can join me and use your imagination to stand before the metaphorical Mirror of Erised. If you gaze into it, what will you see?  This moment in time in your life, given all your hopes and dreams, fears and anxieties, what would be your deepest desire?  What is it that you would most earnestly like God to grant you this new year?

Like Harry Potter, you may see a person or a group of persons dear to you that you have not seen in a long time and that you miss sorely.   Gazing into the mirror, you may find an object that you have long desired to possess.  Or it may be an experience or event that you would like to happen in your family, school, career, or personal life.

Whatever it is, after naming what we see in our Mirror of Desire, let’s take a step back, turn away from it, and gaze into another mirror–no longer our own Mirror of Desire, but this time, God’s Mirror of Desire for us.   And why not?  God too has his own Mirror of Desire for us.  Just as we have our deepest desire in our life, God too has His deepest desire for each one of us.

If we gaze into God’s Mirror of Desire for us, what would we see?  Would his mirror reveal the same thing that our own mirror has revealed—or would we see something altogether different?  Sometimes the two mirrors reveal two entirely different things:  God may have a different desire for us compared to what we ourselves desire in our lives.  Once in a while, however, the two mirrors reveal one and the same thing.  There is a convergence.  In these rare instances, what we most deeply want in our lives also happens to be God’s desire for us, God’s will for us.  And actually, the mystics say that God’s will is always really our deepest desire—except that we do not always know it.

Think about it:  Often we regard God’s desire, God’s will, as something external and alien to us.  “Thy Will be done,” we pray, but we also shiver at the possibilities.  What if God wills something unwelcome, something unpleasant, something painful?  But the mystics insist in no uncertain terms that God’s will, God’s desire, is our deepest desire already planted in our heart of hearts—except we don’t know it because we don’t look or dig deep enough.  We’re too confused running after all sorts of fleeting and superficial desires.  We’re too busy pursuing worldly dreams that the world has deceived us into thinking we cannot live without.

So when we think about it, there really is only one Mirror of Desire, only one mirror that truly reveals our deepest desire–God’s Mirror of Desire.  Any mirror that shows something else is not really our  Mirror of Desire because like an imperfect mirror, it distorts and does not truly reveal our deepest and longest-lasting desire.

More than any gift this New Year, I pray that the gift we will all receive is that we too chance upon the true Mirror of Desire in our lives—God’s Mirror of Desire—so that we will discover the one truest, deepest, longest-lasting thing that we want.

And rumors have it, by the way, that our one truest, deepest, longest-lasting desire is Christ.

(image:  “The Mirror of Erised” by MaryGrandPre from

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