A couple of years ago when I wrote a reflection for today’s birthday of John the Baptist one reader commented: I’m off to “John Baptist the day!”
You’ll understand what he meant as you read.
Take a moment to consider this question: Who or what does your life point to?
Another way of asking the same question might be: What or whom do you live for?
Some people live for their family. Others (often without intending this) have put their life’s emphasis and focus on their career and material security. In a self-centred society many people live for themselves trying to create, reform or re-invent themselves.
A human life cannot be lived happily with a self-focus. We are designed to be signs that point somewhere else – not just to our family and work, but to God.
A healthy happy human person will be a sign-post that points to God.
Many works of art depict John pointing to Jesus as in the image below.
Whereas the culture of our time encourages people to be motivated to seek their own prestige and success, John the Baptist points away from himself, and clearly indicates the centrality of the person of Jesus.
He was, above all else, the first witness to Jesus. Already he had his own support group – perhaps even a bit of a fan club. But the moment he recognised the presence of Jesus, he directed his own followers away from himself, and towards Jesus. “He must increase and I must decrease.” (That’s the Latin caption in the image)
John was a formidable presence since he was unafraid of those who might oppose the truth. As Pope Benedict reminds us, he was prepared to denounce transgressions even when this meant paying the price of his life. He was committed to Truth.
We find our own health and happiness in this present life (and eternally) when we let go of self-concern, and look to Jesus.
I like too the crooked / straight lines image at the end of this gospel passage quoting the prophet Isaiah anticipating the mission of John the Baptist:
“A voice of one crying out in the desert:
Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
Every valley shall be filled
and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
The clarity of Christian teaching can make it seem that the ideal life of faith is a straight line from start to finish, a narrow and direct path from birth to God without hesitation, deviation or repetition.
But the reality of my life is far from this simple and direct path. I have hesitated to move with Jesus so often. I have deviated from the clear callings that I have received and I have habitually repeated mistakes and sins that I should have learnt from the first time.
There is a line often used in theology that reminds me of the complexity of human life and gives me great hope: “God writes straight crooked lines”.
So now, I’m off to John Baptist the day!
- Take a moment to look back at what you consider to be the great mistakes or sins of your life and appreciate how God has written straight with your crooked lines.
- If a stranger viewed your life for a week, what would they think you considered to be most important. Are you happy with their conclusion?
- Try living today with the conscious decision to live every moment, action, word and encounter lived in the gaze of Jesus for his glory.