Photo: Christ’s baptism by John the Baptist at the Jordan River is depicted in a stained-glass window at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Greenlawn. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic)
John the Baptist knew who he was and who he was not. He knew he was a voice crying in the wilderness to make straight the way of the Lord. But he knew he was not the Christ. He knew he had a role to play in preparing the people through repentance but he knew that the one who would come after him would be greater. He knew he would decrease so that Christ could increase.
This inner clarity enabled him to prepare the way for Christ but not get in the way of Christ. Herein lies the key to living the Christian life: inner clarity, knowing who we are and who we are not. Each of us is called uniquely by God to serve others. Each of us have been given gifts and abilities to bring Christ to others through love. If we are insecure, if we think we are not good at anything and have nothing to give, then we fail in the Christian challenge. We fail because we do not trust that God has given us gifts and talents for love.
When we think too little of ourselves we sink into self-doubt. Our insecurity paralyzes our love. John the Baptist knew he was not the Christ but could pave the way for Christ. That is precisely what we are asked to do for one another.
But there is another distraction from this worthy endeavor. It is not that we think too little of ourselves. It is that we think too much of ourselves. Once again we fail in the Christian challenge. We fail because we do not recognize and acknowledge that all is grace, all is gift. What we have, what we are capable of is the result of love and the source of love is God, not ourselves. When we think too much of ourselves, we sink into self-importance. “Look at me. Aren’t I wonderful?” This is not love, at least not Christian love. In love we decrease so that Christ can increase. In self-importance we do not pave the way for Christ; we get in the way of Christ.
As we journey through this season of waiting and expectation, we are encouraged to rejoice because the Lord is near. Let us look beyond the clutter of the busyness our lives and see that Christ is approaching. Let us surrender the clutter of anger and resentment in our hearts and call upon the Prince of Peace this week. Like Isaiah, let us rejoice heartily in the Lord, in our God who is the joy of our soul.
Like John the Baptist, let us be clear about who we are and who we are not. Let us prepare the way for Christ but not get in the way of Christ. Indeed, let us decrease so that Christ can increase.
May the Lord give you peace.
Fr. Jim McNamara