I Am Not the Christ

Today’s Gospel is John 1:19-28, where John the Baptist is questioned by the priests, Levites and Pharisees who are sent to find out who he thinks he is, baptizing and attracting followers and disciples. They ask him, “Who are you?” How does one answer that question? Who are you? This is not, “What is your name?” or “What do you do for a living?” or “Where are you from?” This seems to get at the essence of the verb “to be” – “Who are you?” I feel like I can learn so much about John by his response to his questioners. His first response is simply that he is not the Christ. John’s whole worldview and perspective is so focused on the coming Messiah, his relationship to Him and his role in preceding Him, that this is his first thought. I am not; He is.

Does this not sum up all that we need to learn in the spiritual life, all that Christ the Master needs to teach us as disciples?! Lord, you are. I am not. John’s humility is apparent in his response, “I am not the Christ.” I think to myself that sure, I may say this, but do I actually practice it, and in all the layers of my being, motivations, inclinations and thoughts, do I believe it? No! I actually believe I am the Christ. Do I not interiorly put myself on a little pedestal, from where I can hold court and judge all around me — circumstances, situations, behaviors, actions, and God forbid, even people — according to how they affect me, the all important little demigod? If I am honest, yes, this is often my first instinct, my knee-jerk reaction. This is what I begin to do when I do not give time to prayer and proper effort in striving. I have to consciously and constantly work on not trying to be God! I have to become aware of when I am trying to be God! I have to continually strive to step back, take a breath, look to Christ, pray, reflect, repent, reconcile, and heal. One step at a time. John seems to have been well on his way in that process.locusts

Perhaps I should live in the desert and eat locusts and honey. Ah, no, thankfully that won’t be necessary and as a wife and mother, I am definitely not called to do that. I have the Sacraments to strengthen me, and I can fast and/or offer small sacrifices and pray. Praying this litany of humility is also helpful:

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,

Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I,
provided that I may become as holy as I should…

+++Lord, help me to remember in word and deed, that I am not the Christ. +++