We tend to oversell ourselves in job interviews. We may not be too certain that we can do it but we vocally express full confidence that we can. We quietly tell ourselves that we can always learn on-the-job. However when it comes to doing ministry – to talk about God and Church – most of us grossly undersell ourselves.
Today we celebrate the birth of St John the Baptist. He preceded Jesus. Our true call in life is also to evangelize: to ‘precede Jesus’. But most of us will feel somewhat inept for this call and will perhaps identify our own inadequacy in the undersell quote of St John the Baptist, “I am not fit to undo his sandal”. Well, that’s true.
But what is also true is that to ‘precede Jesus’ in daily life we do not need to be qualified academics. In fact, all of us are needed exactly where we find ourselves in life today; in our job, family and relationships. We are needed in the plain ordinariness of daily life.
To ‘precede him’ can simply be this: to introduce the transforming presence of Jesus into another person’s life. We simply allow Jesus to shine through in what we do or say in ordinary things in everyday life. Most of us are ordinary people but we can do little extraordinary things by simply being kind to others. In so doing a recipient is more prepared to allow Jesus into their life. We “prepare his ways before him” by making straight the path into the person’s heart. When lives around us begin to transform, we are like St John the Baptist “preaching the baptism of repentance”.
Most of us may feel that our most meaningful contribution to Church ministry is to fill up the pews because we are simply ordinary people without a gift. We keep our distance. When we go for any church meeting we go as a non-committed observer. We hold back because we feel unqualified. But Jesus wants us to know we are qualified simply for being who we are. We only need to have this desire to ‘precede him’. With this desire we open ourselves to allow his spirit to come into us.
Too often, we fail to give credit to ourselves. We do not allow Jesus to affirm us for the little, ordinary things we do. Because we always expect to see Jesus in big things and in bigger ways. We must understand that Jesus calls us today because of exactly who we are right here and now. We are like little dots that make up the big picture of salvation. Jesus wants to connect each one of us with the transforming flow of love. Each of us has a unique role in a given situation on a given day. Only we alone can light up the life of the person next to us in that given situation. Jesus need us to do just that.
The task to ‘precede him’ is much ‘on-the-job’ training. We the ordinary are like children in faith. By so doing, we will grow up and our spirit mature. As we go ‘on-the-job’, we will experience the spirit of Jesus in us. “He made my mouth a sharp sword, and hid me in the shadow of his hand. He made me into a sharpened arrow, and concealed me in his quiver”.
We may regard ourselves pew warmers but it is exactly in this ordinary that we are called to precede him. There is no need to oversell or undersell. We are all important pieces in the jigsaw of salvation.
Birth of St John the Baptist