David's Dialogues

Fr. David Colhour, C.P.Last week I reflected on the propensity people have to frequently lie, taking a theme from Paul Wilkes' book subtitled, "Renewing Yourself Through the Practice of Honesty." Moving beyond lying to others, I'm still asking, what happens when we are not true to ourselves? What does that actually mean? Some people believe we all have our own moral compass which gives us direction and helps us understand right from wrong. Yet throughout this year, while in the confessional, I continue to hear how people have been manipulated and lied to by cultural voices which make tremendous promises but really can't deliver. And the promises and lies they had been listening to have caused a rift in their soul, leaving them with a deep emptiness.

I think back to something Ronald Rolheiser once wrote: “So many forces around us and inside us conspire to deflect us from being awake to and attentive to our own deepest center, that is, from being in touch with who we really are. When we ’ re honest we admit how difficult it is to be genuinely sincere and how difficult it is for us to act out of our real center rather than acting out of ideology, popular opinion, fashion, fad, or out of some prefabricated concept of ourselves that we’ve ingested from others around us. Often our attitudes and actions do not really reflect who we are. Rather they reflect who our friends are, the newspapers and websites we’ve read recently, and what newscasts and talk shows draw our attention. Likewise we often understand ourselves more by a persona that was handed to us by our family, our classmates, our colleagues, or our friends than by the reality that’s deepest inside us.”

Finding an authentic self - identity is perhaps one of the most difficult journeys of our life. We will never be whole if we look for someone to do this for us. The two most enlightening biblical examples have already been part of our repertoire this year. 

The first is John the Baptist shared with us on the Third Sunday of Advent. The Jews from Jerusalem decide they need to get more information on this holy man who was baptizing. The questions asked John are: Who are you? Are you Elijah? Are you the Prophet? John refuses to be pigeonholed into any of their categories, but responds with a beautiful biblical theme from Isaiah, “I am the voice of the one crying out in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord.” This answers the question while still giving John the freedom to express himself in his ministry while being true to God's call.

The second was from the Gospel we had just three weeks ago. Jesus has had an evening of healing people. He gets up early in the morning to go out and pray. Peter comes looking for him to bring him back to the house and Jesus says, “ Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come." While that may not be what Peter wants to hear, it still allows Jesus to be true to his mission as well.

As a confessor, I'm continually reminded how heavy it is to carry around the weight of trying to live a life which isn't true. And I remember Jesus' promise, “My yoke is easy, my burden light.”