There is a saying in East Asia about the teacher and the reality to which the teacher points. To explain this relationship, they often employ the image of the finger which points at the moon. In their thinking the key is not to focus on the finger nor the person to whom it belongs, but rather to the moon which the person is directing one’s attention. Although they understand this proverb slightly different than the context in which I am going to use it, I think it is a good way of imagining being an authentic disciple of Jesus Christ.
The problem is that often we do not point to a deeper truth, but to our own limited personalities. Instead of pointing to the moon, we point at ourselves. We say, “Look at me;” maybe not by our words, but certainly in our actions. Instead of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we proclaim the Gospel according to me. I believe that most people sincerely want to proclaim the truth about Jesus Christ. What distorts this intention is sin. One of its main effects is that it tends to make us self-centered.
The good news is that Jesus Christ liberates us from this narrow way of living by opening us to the possibilities offered through God’s Divine life. Through grace, we learn to not focus on ourselves, but rather be generous in bringing Christ to a world marred by sin.
A model of this can be found in this Sunday’s Gospel. In the Gospel of John Chapter 1, we see a perfect model of authentic discipleship. John is a dynamic figure who draws others to himself. He does not shy away from the lime-light, and he pursues the truth with zeal and energy. However, when the time comes for him to let go of his ministry for something greater, he lets himself point to a reality that is deeper than his particular role. He does not lead his audience to focus on the finger, but rather on the moon. That moon is Jesus Christ.
We too can have this kind outlook. In our parishes, we can have the approach of helping to be a bridge between Christ and the world. Our lives can look like John the Baptist when we serve with a pure heart and a discerning spirit. The key is that we have to be willing to let go of power and control. Instead of imposing our will, we have to work with others in a spirit of communion and cooperation. In this way our lives show that we are about leading the way to something greater.
To do this, we have to constantly be aware of our sinfulness and our weakness. Others are not just there to help us do what we want to do. Other people make a demand on us. Like our communion with God, our communion with others requires preferring others over ourselves. It requires self-forgetting that is not solely an act of the will, but is a gift of grace. Let us pray for that grace today.