Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; Psalm 126 (or Luke 1:46-55); 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28
“This above all; to thine own self be true.” William Shakespeare
Who are you? So John the Baptist was asked. (See Greek below) So he answered the easy part first. He told them who he was not. He was not the Messiah. He was neither Elijah nor one of the prophets (John 1:19-21). The question of the priests and Levites from Jerusalem echoes down through the centuries even into our private chambers, and each of us hears: Who are you? It reverberates louder the quieter we are. So, let us face up and do the easy part first. We are not how we occupy our time, nor how we dress. We are neither our positions nor our possessions. We are not our role in society nor the esteem people have for us. We are not our faults. Flannery O’Connor in “Revelation” says that when people go to meet God “even their virtues were being burned away.” We are certainly not our virtues. There is nothing wrong with any of these things. Who would fault virtues or money rightly used or an honest leadership role? It is just that they are the false self (cf. Richard Rohr, John of the Cross). They are not who we are. All these things can and probably will be taken from us, burned away, as Flannery O’Connor says, so our true naked selves can meet God. Each time one is taken away we are closer to truly being who we are. Who are we? This is the hard part. We are children of God. What that means is often not clear to us because our good marvelous false selves hinder our vision. In the mean time we can say, with John the Baptist, we are voices crying in the wilderness.
In Greek one would emphasize something by putting it early in the sentence. The word order for “Who are you?” in the original Greek is “You who are?” We can’t say it that way in English. But by putting the word “you” first in the sentence in the Greek, it is meant to be emphasized. In print in English we could italicize the word. To be true to the Greek in reading aloud we should say: Who are YOU?
Striped of what we’re not.
Standing in what we’re to be.
Shone in God’s true self.