Have you or your work ever been questioned? Have you ever struggled to stay true to yourself in the face of accusations or temptations? Have you ever felt like John the Baptist – being the “voice of one crying out in the wilderness” for justice, freedom, or peace?
I know many of you can relate. I know because some of you have told me, shared your stories of pain or questioning. You have emailed me. You have talked with me. I have been routinely surprised at the extent that this Morning Reflection ministry has had on me as I hear the stories of how so many of you have struggled to stay true to yourself in the face of pain, opposition, or struggle.
This is what we are called to: to bear one another’s burdens. Sometimes in the midst of that we are called beyond ourselves – to stand for something greater. Sometimes we called to rise up and take a stand against an unhealthy system, whether that be a large corporation, the government, or a dysfunctional marriage.
And it is not easy. It is never easy to endure the accusations – to work for justice, freedom, or peace. Sometimes it is hard to see the big picture and realize that the problems in the short term will help out the problems in the long term.
John the Baptist knew this well. He seemed to inherently know the big picture, and he took a stand, enduring the short-term chaos – the short-term trial – because he knew the rest of the story. In the reading today it is if John the Baptist is on trial today. The Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem. They asked him, “‘Who are you?’ He confessed and did not deny it, ‘I am not the Messiah.’ And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ Then they said to him, ‘Who are you?’”
In the midst of the questions, he remembered the bigger picture. For him that “rest of the story” was that Jesus was the one who could take on the powers and complete the work of justice, freedom, and peace. Jesus: “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me’”
Did you notice what else John had? Humility. In the face of standing – perhaps railing against the system, we must realize we do not have all the answers. We are all called to John’s humility – to realize that we are not the One who brings justice, freedom, or peace.
But we very well may be the catalysts for that change. We may very well be the ones who are called to help change the system. And if that is so, may God grant us the grace to stand firm in the face of torment – to stand firm when people slander you or speak ill of you. Remember – you may be the one who is called in this time and place to shine the radiant love of Christ – breaking the systems of the past, and helping God’s light to shine in.
So stand firm.