Reflection on the Readings
Who are you, really? Most of us can’t give a one-word answer to that question. Consider all the words you use to define your place in the world and your role in the greater community: child, parent, sibling, friend; doctor, plumber, caregiver; boss, employee, volunteer; citizen or immigrant; sports enthusiast or Netflix nut; Catholic, child of God.
So…who are you?
Henri Nouwen, a priest and prolific spiritual writer, put it this way: You see, many of my daily preoccupations suggest that I belong more to the world than to God. A little criticism makes me angry, and a little rejection makes me depressed. A little praise raises my spirits, and a little success excites me. It takes very little to raise me up or thrust me down.
Often, I am like a small boat on the ocean, completely at the mercy of its waves. All the time and energy I spend in keeping some kind of balance and preventing myself from being tipped over and drowning shows that my life is mostly a struggle for survival: not a holy struggle, but an anxious struggle resulting from the mistaken idea that it is the world that defines me. . .
As long as we belong to this world, we will remain subject to its competitive ways and expect to be rewarded for all the good we do…
But when we belong to God, who loves us without conditions, we can live as he does. The great conversion called for by Jesus is to move from belonging to the world to belonging to God.
Friends, Isn’t it true that so much of our struggles are about belonging; indeed, about identity? So much of our struggles in life has to do with our identity…Where do I fit in? Which “group” do I identify with best?
You may be familiar with the television program To Tell the Truth. On this show three contestants, all claiming to be the same person, are quizzed by panelists about their identity. The two phonies could lie to the panelists, but the real person has to tell the truth. The best part of the program is when the host booms out, “Will the real Mr. / Mrs. So-and-So please stand up?” And then you find out who the actual inventor or skydiver or race car driver is.
It’s surprising to see in the show that some people are better at being somebody else than they are at being their own real selves. Perhaps it shouldn’t come as such a surprise. It seems easier for us to put up a false front than to be authentically who we are…authentically who God created us as. And yet, when we discover who we are at our deepest core and are able to be that person fully, we are liberated, and God rejoices!
In our Gospel passage this Sunday, we hear John the Baptist decisively announce who Jesus is. This revelatory moment of identity is on the heels of another earth-shattering proclamation from this past Monday’s Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
In the gospel passage of Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan, we are told how God the Father in heaven boomed out, “You are my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Then Jesus arose from the waters of the Jordan knowing, deep down, his identity and his mission. Maybe the Lord is trying to tell us something important about our own identity…hmm….
You may be familiar with the song – Looking for Love In All the Wrong Places – well, there’s another song (that I’ve made up), Looking for Our Identity In All the Wrong Places…
Friends, we each need help to rediscover our true identity given us at baptism, and the Church is a great place to get that guidance.
You see, when we gather to celebrate Mass, we don’t do so because God needs our worship or our pitiful attention! The worship of God is supposed to help remind us of who we are in God’s eyes.
When we participate in the Sacraments, God asks us: “Will the real you please stand up?”
Quote of the Week
The essential thing is always to begin again, despite every- thing and against everything, and never to be discouraged