It’s been said many times that if you have no plan, or no goals, you’ll always be successful. Of course, being successful at doing nothing, or going nowhere, is not what most of us are looking for.

At the same time, not all goals are equal. A goal without a plan to achieve it amounts to little more than wishful thinking.

Today’s Gospel reading asks us to consider our plans for our lives. When the first disciples start to follow Jesus he asks them a very direct question: “What are you looking for?” The disciples don’t seem very well prepared to answer the question. “Rabbi,” they say, “where are you staying?”

Now, I doubt that that was what was really on their minds. After all, they’re in the process of leaving their former lives behind to follow someone whose teaching and ministry has had an irresistible attraction. Nevertheless, Jesus responds with an invitation to all seekers throughout the centuries. “Come,” Jesus says, “and you will see.”

In summary, the conversation sort of goes like this:

Jesus: “What are you looking for?”

Disciples: “We don’t know.”

Jesus: “Come and see.”

Come and you will see. For those of us who struggle to know where we are going with our lives—not just to set goals but to set the right goals—this is a wonderfully open-ended invitation. Jesus calls us, not to a specific task or project, but to follow him. Jesus does not tell the disciples what they should be looking for. He doesn’t tell them where to go or what to do other than to stick with him. They, and we, are not directed to a program or to an institution, but we are invited into a relationship.

Jesus doesn’t criticize the disciples for not knowing their path. He invites them to join him and his. He invites us, too.

Now, it might be easier for all of us if Jesus simply handed out a formula for spiritual success. He could have just given those first followers a pamphlet or a guidebook for faithful living. Religions have been doing this for centuries — developing rules, the “do’s and don’ts” that define a holy life — and requiring adherence to these rules.

If that were all that was needed, we would never have to struggle with a decision, or to understand the unexpected events in our world and in our lives. But Jesus doesn’t give us a brochure or even a sermon on how to live. He gives us himself.

How do we “come and see” Jesus today? Well, we have his Word in the Scriptures, his presence in the Eucharist, and his body in our assemblies. He tells us that he is with us always, and that we serve him when we serve the sick, the poor, and the suffering. These channels to his presence are all around us.

This is good news for those of us who are still wondering just what we are looking for. Jesus doesn’t criticize the disciples for not knowing their path. He invites them to join him and his. He invites us, too. Jesus still calls us to come and see.

Bill Peatman writes from Napa. He may be reached at [email protected].