Who Are You?
I once read a self-improvement book that suggested we try this exercise: first, write an obituary for yourself as you imagine it would be written today. Then write it again, as you would like your ideal obituary to read. Analyze what you need to do to move toward this ideal and make an action plan. It sounds simple but will take a lifetime.
The central question in today’s reading is much like this. Who are you? The priests and Levites ask John. What do you say about yourself?
How would you answer? We might, like John, respond by talking about what we do. I pray and look for ways to support loved ones each day (well, most days), work to create more native plant gardens (when the weather cooperates), advocate for Indigenous land rights, (when I have time) educate my parish about social justice (unless I encounter obstacles). And, to be honest, sometimes most of the boxes on my to-do list remain unchecked.
For most of us, life is like that. We are constantly striving, faltering, forgetting, failing. It is hard to be our best self when loss, pain and disappointment overwhelm us. For such times, St Paul offers this advice. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances…Do not quench the spirit.”
That made me think about the ways I quench the spirit. Avoiding difficult tasks. Looking at the world with a disaster mentality. “Us-Them” thinking. Judging. Looking at what’s wrong rather than at what’s right.
The opposite of quenching the spirit is fanning the flames. Like Isaiah and like Mary, I need to accept that “the spirit of the Lord is upon me,” even when I can’t feel it, maybe especially at those times.
Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you and trust that it will happen. Look to Mary as a wonderful example of that faithful trust. “The Lord has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.” Even when we see little evidence that this is happening, let us act as if it is true, do our part and leave the rest to God.
John is our role model for humility as we walk the pathways of our Saviour. We don’t need to be the leader, the hero, the award winner. A smile, a kind word, taking the time to help a stranger are small acts we can all do. We each play a part, according to our gifts. Take time to give thanks. And pray unceasingly.