Now he begins to instruct the disciples about how to be his followers.
In this week’s Gospel Jesus says: be what you are. If you are salt then don’t lose your flavor of salt. If you are a lamp then don’t put a basket over yourself so no one can see your light. Give savor. Give light.
This is consoling advice. You get to be yourself.
But would the disciples have followed Jesus if they had known what it really means to “be yourself”? The First Reading gives a hint. It says to share your bread with the hungry. Shelter the oppressed and the homeless. Clothe the naked. Do not turn away from your own. This is how you let your light shine in the darkness. This is how Jesus enlightened the world. He even went to death for it. Isn’t this the meaning of “becoming yourself”?
A big assignment.
Today the definition of “being me” can sound like selfishness. “I get to do whatever I want to do.” “Take care of number one.” “If it feels good, do it.” And so on.
In today's culture of the United States, one of the classic songs made popular by Frank Sinatra is "I Did It My Way," co-written by Sinatra and Paul Anka.
And so on. The main message is that “I” have succeeded in life as long as I did everything “my way.” There is a backdrop of fear here, something about not being free to be myself; to have to do everything according to someone else’s design. The world and its population are very, very large and it is no surprise that mass production and mass advertising and mass purchasing give us the feeling that we are just cogs in a giant, international, industrial wheel, worth nothing in ourselves but contributing to the market as long as we do and buy what we are supposed to. So, “to do it my way” is a statement about facing down the great machine and defying it outright.
I planned each charted course,
each careful step, along the byway,
and more, much more than this,
I did it my way.*
But the scriptures assume the opposite. They suppose that every human being is created with a unrepeatable, deep, interior shape. Rather than fighting to do my own will no matter what, I need to allow the Spirit of God to find a home deep within my space. This is the Spirit of loving, of respect, of forgiveness. It is God. You and I are built to be at one with this presence. Becoming myself means becoming what I was built to be: a home for the Spirit of Jesus, of God.
God’s love will become us. It will help us find ourselves as what we really are deep down: givers of food, helpers to the homeless, forgiving and loving members of society.
In other words, we will become truly ourselves.