Monday, January 02, 2017

Who Are You

Let what you heard from the beginning remain in you. If what you heard from the beginning remains in you, then you will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made us: eternal life. I write you these things about those who would deceive you. As for you, the anointing that you received from him remains in you, so that you do not need anyone to teach you. But his anointing teaches you about everything and is true and not false; just as it taught you, remain in him. 1 John 2:24-27

This is the testimony of John. When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to him to ask him, "Who are you?" He admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, "I am not the Christ." So they asked him, "What are you then? Are you Elijah?" And he said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" He answered, "No." So they said to him, "Who are you, so 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,' as Isaiah the prophet said."  John 1:19-23

Prologue to the Rule of St. Benedict
Listen carefully, my child, to my instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is advice from one who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice. The labor of obedience will bring you back to God from whom you had drifted through the sloth of disobedience. This message of mine is for you, then, if you are ready to give up your own will, once and for all, and armed with the strong and noble weapons of obedience to do battle for Jesus, the Christ.

First of all, every time you begin a good work, you must pray to God most earnestly to bring it to perfection. In God's goodness, we are already counted as God's own, and therefore we should never grieve the Holy One by our evil actions. With the good gifts which are in us, we must obey God at all times that God may never become the angry parent who disinherits us, nor the dreaded one, enraged by our sins, who punishes us forever as worthless servants for refusing to follow the way to glory.

The other day, as we heard the story about Anna the Prophetess, she was content in her spiritual identity.  Today, that same contentedness is seen in the person and witness of John the Baptist.  We do not see John with any grand career aspirations to become rabbi or bishop.  He knows his role and he is happy to fulfill that mission in life. 

We do not get a sense that John has any anxiety about NOT being the prophet, not being Elijah, or not being the Christ.  The anxiety exists all around him though.  He has confidence that he will be able to accomplish his appointed task – being the one who points to the Christ.  John knew his role was to be the beacon shining the way for one who was to come later.

He said: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” (John 1:23)

The two Cappadocian 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?"

Saints Basil and Gregory were battling the “liars” of their day just as the early apostles were taking on false prophets such as certain Gnostics who denied that the earthly Jesus was the Christ; to deny knowledge of the Son is to deny the Father since only through the Son has God been fully revealed. 

We get overly pre-occupied with what we are going to become and maybe lose track of what we are in the present moment.  It’s a question that is ingrained in us since childhood.  As a child, we played games about what we will grow up to be.  A police officer.  Or a doctor.  Or a firefighter.  Or a soldier.  Or an astronaut.  Or a teacher.  Rather than just being happy being a child, we are conditioned from a young age to want more than what we have.

Then, when we grow up, we are then always taught that we should be on the lookout for the next career move, the bigger house, the faster car.  On we work. 

The examples of Anna and John point us to people who had confidence in themselves and the job they were cut out to perform.  They lived within their mission and means without aspiring to any greater material possessions or higher position in society.

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 a Knight? 

How can you resolve to be a stronger follower of Christ and Cursillista here and now?  How can you have confidence in your current role rather than wanting more?  Can you be contented to live according to Christ’s anointing in your Baptism and Confirmation rather than wanting more?

No comments: