A New You In the New Decade
A Reflection for the New Year and New Decade by Rev. Bob Johnnene OFD
Mission Saints Sergius & Bacchus / Franciscans of Divine Mercy
In the movie and Broadway musical “La Cage aux Folles” which focuses on a gay couple: Georges, the manager of a nightclub featuring female impersonator entertainment, and Albin, his romantic partner and star attraction. Albin has a scene where he is sitting in front of a mirror and sings a song which begins with these words; “I am what I am I am my own special creation. So come take a look”. The song ends with these words; “There’s one life, and there's no return and no deposit; One life, so it's time to open up your closet. Life's not worth a damn 'til you can say, hey world, I am what I am!"
I wonder how often we, as Christians or any other religious denominations of just simple folk take a good hard look in the mirror of our life and admit to whom they really are.
I thought that we, as Christians, might want to begin this new Decade by checking ourselves out in the mirror of life and looking at the reflection that is staring back at us.
In the book of Exodus of the Old Testament when Moses asks who it is that is speaking to him a voice replies; "I AM WHO I AM." And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'" (Exodus 3:14) In the Hebrew or Aramaic language the word is; אהיה אשר אהיה, pronounced Ehyeh asher ehyeh which is the common English translation of the response God used when Moses asked for His name. It is one of the most famous verses in the Torah Hayah means "existed" or "was" in Hebrew; "ehyeh" is the first person singular imperfect form. Ehyeh asher ehyeh is generally interpreted to mean I am that I am, though it more literally translates as "I-shall-be that I-shall-be."
My thoughts today have to deal with the concept that every one of us need to face that mirror and look deeply at the reflections asking ourselves , “Who we really are” and while we are at it we also need to as ourselves ; “Do I see God within me and do I reflect God to others by my actions?”
Do you see, in your reflection, the infinite and everlasting mercy and love of Christ being cast back at you?
If there are streaks or spots on your reflection, what is it that is causing those distortions?
Possibly, it is because you are not very open to accepting yourself as God created you with your gifts as well as your imperfections. Perhaps you do not accept how God created you with your sexual orientation or your height, eye color, hair color or other natural and biological parts.
Maybe you spend too much time thinking about yourself and your needs instead of finding out how you can reach out and help others less fortunate than you.
One thing that can cause distortions in you reflection is the distance you put between you and Almighty God. You say you believe in God and you do call on him when times are tough but you do not take time every day to talk with him like your best friend and give Him thanks for all he has given you.
There is of course those times when you can see a figure that is dark and foreboding and frightens you.
That of course is the evil which has been able to penetrate your inner self through temptation and a loss of your love and trust in God.
The reflection you see might be a beautiful luminescent image that seems to glow from within which is the reflection of God and the Holy Spirit abiding within you.
Each of us needs to take a good hard look at ourselves in that mirror of our life and see the real us. Just as Albin does in La Cage aux Folles we need to feel proud of who we are and what we are because we are who God created us as.
Ask, “Do I reflect the infinite love and mercy of Jesus Christ to all I encounter on my life journey?
Do I live in a way that would prompt God to praise me as “My good and faithful servant”?
We are honest with ourselves what we see in that reflection is how others see you.
Sure we have faults and have made mistakes, after all we are human and not perfect as only God is perfect, but if we strive to be kind, generous, thoughtful, forgiving, and not discriminate against any of God’s children, even those with whom you disagree, you are well on the way to seeing Christ in your reflection and others will see the God within you.
Christ’s life and example has shown us that to live as He instructed would not be easy. We might be ridiculed and rejected and even have to suffer in order to be truthful and live according to God’s will.
God has given us a source of strength in the gifts bestowed upon us by the Holy Spirit; Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord.
The secret, for us, is to seek them out and ask God for them.
Everyone needs to know who the real us is, just like Moses needed to know who was telling him what to do and the people of Israel would want to know from Moses who the commandments came from. No matter what role we play in our daily life, we need to allow people to see and know the real person otherwise they are following a false image.
How often have we been devastated when a person we believed in and trusted turned out to be other than what we thought? In the last decade, we have seen many instances of that. Politicians, Church leaders, government officials, bankers, investment specialists all have turned out to be other than what they seemed to be. Because of that, many people were hurt and devastated.
I know I am far from perfect and have made many mistakes in my life and hopefully I have learned from them and used them to become a better person. I never intentionally sought to hurt anyone and if I did, I have tried to make amends or at least asked forgiveness. As I have said before, God did not make us perfect but He does expect us to try to achieve that state of being.
The saints are those who have achieved that state of being or have came the closest like St. Francis, Mother Therese of Calcutta, Brother Roger of Taize, even though he is not an official Saint, he was highly respected by all the religious denominations who sent representatives to his funeral.
Like Albin in the musical we need to be able to proudly say; “Hey world, I am what I am!" with this added to it; “I am who God created me as and I love who I am and I love God”
In closing, I would like to share with you a prayer I offer to God every day;
Prayer to The Holy Spirit
By Father Robert Johnnene OFA
O Most Holy Spirit, merciful Comforter; Come, I beseech You, and take up abode in my heart. Let my weaknesses be penetrated with your strength, so that I may always do what is right and just. Fill my heart with charity toward all I encounter.
Enlighten me in my ignorance, advise me in my doubts. Purify and cleanse me of all sin and sanctify my soul, protecting and shielding me from the temptations that plague me. Make me truly humble that I may be pleasing to Almighty God.
Instill within me an honest respect of Almighty God and all of his creations.
Assist me to becoming an instrument of God's Word to all I encounter.
Give to me the gift of Wisdom to know and live according to God’s will.
By your gifts, help me to live a holy life and grow in the everlasting love of Christ so that I may join with all the heavenly elect when my days here on earth are ended.
I ask this through Jesus Christ, my redeemer and savior, who lives and reigns with you our creator God, now and forever. AMEN