At our deepest levels most people are searching for belonging, meaning and authenticity.
These three words, at least for me, go a long way towards summing up the human journey in life (and especially the journey into self). Of course we who are Christian add our own interpretation to the understanding of these three words, but I do believe that even at a basic, secular level they stand as valid.
People seek to belong. We know this search in the deepest recesses of our hearts. Human beings are meant for each other, we are social and relational in our very nature and we experience an innate drive to seek out companionship and partnership as we journey through life. Love drives us in this direction – we thrill to be the centre of someone else’s loving attention, and in turn we seek to go out of ourselves and to give ourselves to another or to give ourselves in loving service to others.
People seek meaning in their lives. We want to know and understand what is happening to us and how we are affecting others. Again this is deep within us, we are the one part of creation that is always searching for answers. From childhood on we ask ‘why?’-perhaps, verbally and repetitiously in our younger years, and within our thoughts and quieter recesses as we get older. But we still ask! Suffering especially disturbs us and we seek to know ‘why this happened’ and so in times of travail this question above all others, haunts us. And in the best of times we still want to feel deep within that we are ‘making a difference’ through our lives.
People seek authenticity. We want to be true to ourselves and others and we have a deep desire to be genuine. We live at times without reflecting on this reality, yet we know its centrality in our lives more painfully in those times when it is absent – we don’t want others to be ‘two-faced’ nor do we want to be like that ourselves; rather we want to be consistent in our approach to people and we want to align ourselves with values that are true and deep. We gravitate too towards people who we find authentic.
John the Baptist focuses us on these same three dynamics in today’s reading. He responds to his somewhat suspicious and reprimanding enquirers that his ministry is not a self-oriented one, but rather one that reflects the fact that in relationship to Jesus (his cousin); he has found his ‘centre’. John answers one of life’s most puzzling and consistent questions – ‘Who are you?’ – with a clear sense of himself and of the place where he ‘stands. He has found a strong sense of belonging, of meaning and a way of being authentic in his following of Jesus.
‘Let what you heard from the beginning remain in you’, says John the Evangelist in today’s first reading. John the Baptist had died before these words were ever written, but it is evident that they already had resonated within him anyway.
Thus John’s steadfastness is an attitude and a direction we could well imitate and adopt as our own as this New Year unfolds before us.
Let us stay on the path that we walk with Jesus in life and continue to make our relationship with him our place of belonging – our ‘centre’. His is the ‘way’ that gives meaning to life and gives us hope in all life’s struggles. His mission in this world is one that brings life to all and opens for us a means to live authentic lives.
Put another way, Jesus is for us the Way, the Truth and the Life. In him we can find a way to belong, a way to find meaning and a way to live an authentic life.
Fr. Denis Travers, C.P., is a member of Holy Spirit Province, Australia.