Who are you?

3rd Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday)
Beloved in Jesus Christ, at every Passover, the Jewish people reserve a cup of wine  and a place setting, for the arrival of Elijah. It was believed that the prophet Elijah would come again at the time of the Messiah.  The ancient rabbis had written a great deal about it.  The tradition was so strong, that at seder meals, and even to this day, not only is a cup of wine poured for Elijah, but the door is left standing open for his coming. Also, in the concluding ceremony of the Sabbath, an appeal is made to God, that Elijah would arrive during the next week.  ‘Let him come quickly,’ says the prayer,  ‘let him come with the messiah.’  
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But this expectation of Elijah preparing the way was no idle tradition. The prophet Malachi who lived centuries before Christ, wrote:  ‘Lo I will send you Elijah the prophet, before the Lord comes,  to turn hearts of children to their fathers. Lo, I will send you Elijah.    
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So knowing this, the people asked John the Baptist:  Who are you? And he said, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, Are you Elijah?  Now John DID wear a leather belt and a garment of camel’s hair as did Elijah.  But the truth would be, that it was not Elijah himself who would come,  but one in the spirit of Elijah; John, out of humility, says ‘I am not he.’  
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Thousands of years of preparation and prophecy, had foretold the Savior.  The long line of prophets, and writings, and symbols  were about to be fulfilled in Jesus Christ.   John was too humble to say that he fulfilled the last prophecy; but in St. Matthew’s Gospel, Christ says so: ‘And he said to them, the prophets and the Law prophesied until John the Baptist;  and if you can accept it, he is Elijah, who was to come.   
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And so John the Baptist stood at the pinnacle of prophecy,  at the very gate of the New Covenant.  John the Baptist stands as the dividing line between the Old Law and the New Law. As Malachi’s prophecy of Elijah closes the Old Testament,  John appears, at the opening of the New Testament.   
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‘Who are you?,’ they asked John.  In his humility, he could not give a theological answer, of how he is the forerunner to the Savior – no. He could only say, ‘I am not even worthy to undo the strap of his sandal.’  
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The question they posed to John can be answered by us as well:  ‘Who are you?’ Each of us will face that truth one day before our Maker; this question will cut through all the layers of delusion and rationalization; only what is real will be seen; and if we are honest, this should be a fearful thought.  
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‘Who are you?’ This question will not only ask what we have said, what we have done, and with what motives we did things; it will go straight to who we are.  ‘Who am I – really?’    
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A friend of mine says he was at someone’s home, a Catholic. It was a very nice home, high quality. But he said, ‘there was not a single image of faith there, not a crucifix, no image of Mary, there were no meal prayers said; he said, ‘I wonder what really motivates that family,  it didn’t seem to be God.’  
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Advent is a time to look inside, to honestly ask that question of ourselves: ‘Who are you?’ ‘Who am I?’ Can I say, ‘I am a Christian.’  Can we say that our motives and thoughts and dealings with others, are driven by our love of God?   
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The North American martyr St. Isaac Jogues was tortured by Mohawk Indians,  but he escaped and was sent back to France.  He said to his superior: “Father, the tortures were very great,  but God is greater. I want whatever the Lord wants.’  And he went back again. His life was simply about God, come what may.  
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‘Who are you?’ – this will one day be asked of us by the most powerful Creator, and our destiny will be decided not by how we answer, but by what is evident.     
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In this life we wear many masks.  There is the external mask we wear so that others think we are something,  concealing our dark shadows or even leading a double-life.  And there are the internal masks that we wear to deceive ourselves:  the mask of rationalizing what we do and how we are.  
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Psychologists tell us that we build up around our mind –  we create an elaborate world-view –  in order to protect and pacify our conscience. We distance ourself from reality.  
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We make many compromises. Basing decisions on what can be gained,  instead of what is right –  acting for the sake of popularity or approval –  building layers around us,  complicating the truth of who we are, and separating ourselves from reality.   
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We’ve maybe met people who are always scheming and calculating so that whatever they do is to their advantage.  This kind of a life is joyless, with no foundation, one big deception.    
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John the Baptist is presented to us during Advent, as an example of one who was not afraid of what others say; he spoke truth – it got him into trouble, he was killed for it; but he was a free man in the Lord, livingin perfect reality and truth.  
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These last days preparing for Christmas call us to remove from our lives all that is not authentic. Removing the facades and poses that complicate us, but that also make us fake, and certainly not free.  
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Life in Jesus Christ – is life in reality, knowing our true selves, and then living as authentic disciples of the Lord.  It’s true, we’ve often tangled and complicated our life, but we can go to Mary! Mary has been called the ‘Untier of knots,’  so we can ask her to untie the knots in our life, that we may be more authentic disciples of Jesus Christ.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Josemaria Escriva]

 

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