Who are you? This question confronts us every moment, even when we are unaware. Sometimes, people ask us directly, “Who are you?” Other times, they only give us a look that suggests they are asking us, “Who are you?” When people love us, they consciously or unconsciously try to know who we are. The same goes for when people hate us. When life is tough on us, when life is kind to us, life wants to know who we are. So, I ask you now, “Who are you?” How do you respond? With your name? Your gender? Your race? Your occupation? Of all you say about yourself, which is the real you that no one can take away from you? In other words, who is the “you” in you that makes you the “you” that you are?
I have wondered if you can change who you are. I have concluded that it is not within your power to decide who you want to be, for your real “you” comes from God. In other words, God made you; your responsibility is to discover and be who you are. It is in being who you are that you find fulfillment in life.
A few verses before today’s gospel passage, the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to John the Baptist to ask him, “Who are you?” He told them he was not the Christ, he was not Elijah, and he was not the prophet. When they insisted on knowing who he was to take the answer to those who sent them, John said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”
In his response, John indicated that he knew his true identity; an identity which comes from God. An identity from which flows his mission, an identity that reveals his role in the Body of Christ. He identified himself as the “voice.” The voice is the vehicle that carries the Word, the vehicle that carries the message. The voice disappears, and the message remains. Jesus is the Word, and John is the voice.
In today’s gospel passage, John the voice pointed to Jesus, the Lamb of God, after which he disappeared from the scene and let Jesus take center stage. After the voice spoke, his disciples left him and followed the Word. John did not take offense at this action of his disciples. He was fulfilled to know himself and function based on his identity.
How did John come about this self-knowledge and fulfillment? He withdrew from the distractions of the city to the desert. With that, he could look into himself; he could look at God and ask God to reveal his real identity to him. Having known his identity, John’s mission easily flowed from that identity and from thence came his fulfillment.
Whenever we pray, it is a good practice to ask God to reveal our identity to us. Our true fulfillment can only come from the true knowledge of our identity and living based on that identity. The call of Samuel in the first reading and the call of the disciples in the Gospel passage reveal that God calls us as individuals for unique missions based on our identity. Our identity comes from God, and each of us has a unique mission in the Body of Christ. My dear friends in Christ, as we begin the year 2024, before we rush into doing what everybody is doing or what everybody wants us to do, let us pause and listen to the question, “Who are you?” May the Holy Spirit grant us the grace of discernment to discover our true identity as beloved children of God and live based on that identity until we come to our heavenly inheritance through Christ, our Lord. Amen.