January 2, 2008
Memorial of Saint Basil the Great and Saint Gregory Nazianzen, bishops and doctors of the Church
By Melanie Rigney
"Who is the liar? Whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Whoever denies the Father and the Son, this is the antichrist. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father, but whoever confesses the Son has the Father as well." (1 John 2:22-23)
The priests and Levites asked John the Baptist, "'Who are you, so that we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?' He said: 'I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, "Make straight the way of the Lord."" (John 2:22-23)
Lord, you know me better than anyone; you know me better than I know myself. Give me the courage to speak up for you and my faith when I am asked, "Who are you?"
Who are you? Is your identity tied up in being a mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, son, or friend? Or is it about what you present at work: a successful attorney, competent teacher, top car salesman of the month? Or is it about who you are at church: a Parish Council member, liturgist, or doughnut lady?
We hope to proclaim the Word in everything we do, in every sharing of time, talent, and treasure. For some of us, this seems to come as naturally as breathing. "They'll know we are Christians by our love," Peter Scholte wrote in his 1966 song, We Are One in the Spirit. But being one in the Spirit also is about being forthright when we are asked "Who are you?" It's about communicating who Jesus is to us in a way that believers and unbelievers alike will understand. It's about standing for Christ publicly—about being an object of ridicule or even a martyr if necessary—and about standing up for Christ privately when it would be so much easier to give into temptation for momentary pleasure. This is what John the Baptist did in telling the priests and Levites, "I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, 'Make straight the way of the Lord.'"
The two Cappaddocian fathers whose feast days we celebrate today, Saint Basil the Great and Saint Gregory Nazianzen, were gifted orators in the fourth century. Both men are known for their skillful arguments against Arianism—that is, that Jesus was a second, inferior God because unlike God, he had not always existed. In addition to his verbal and written eloquence, Basil was known for his quickness to sell his family's land to feed the hungry during a Cappadocian famine, working in a shop kitchen himself.
Surely, it would have been easier for both men to spend their lives in quiet monastic contemplation or in their family's luxurious trappings. But they stood up eloquently for Christ as they knew him. They didn't go along to get along or take the easy way out. May we do the same when we are asked, "Who are you?"
Who are you, really? What would you tell Jesus if he asked you that question this morning? In your prayers tonight, share what you did during the day to make straight the way of the Lord.