Our Lord confronts the religious leaders who complain about John the Baptist, and he asks them: What did you go out to the desert to see? Apparently John’s extreme asceticism had turned some of them off. But these same leaders were grumbling that Jesus spent too much time eating and drinking with tax collectors and other public sinners. It seems that nothing Our Lord and St. John did was good enough.
These religious leaders set such stringent standards of what godliness was supposed to look like that they condemned anything that fell outside of their narrow boundaries. They had their expectations set in stone, leaving no room at all for the Holy Spirit to move and work. It’s no wonder they missed God working under their very noses.
Today’s gospel can lead us to ask one very important question: how rigid am I? And we can answer that question by examining our conscience and reflecting upon our spiritual lives: Am I enjoying the freedom that God gives me? The freedom to respond to the Holy Spirit in line with my own personality and with what I believe he is calling me to do with my life? Thankfully in the Catholic Church one size doesn’t fit all and we’re not all square pegs in square holes. God doesn’t call us all to be priests or religious, or to marry. God does call some to solitude and contemplation, and he calls others to activity and service in the community. Some are called to pour out their lives for the poor, and others to work for change in society. The only really important question is whether each person loves God, obeys his will, and in their own chosen way builds up the kingdom of God.
Just take the example and the witness of the saints who all exhibited distinct personality traits suited to their calling: for example St. Dominic got on well with people and easily attracted followers to Christ, while St. Jerome, a brilliant but abrasive man, was better suited to the more isolated work of a scholar. St. Francis Xavier’s passion and ambition carried him around the world as a missionary, while the cloistered St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s childlike spirit enabled her to understand and communicate God’s love. St. Teresa of Ávila, strong-willed and witty, was a reformer and a prolific writer, while St. John Vianney used his listening and his intuitive skills as a gifted confessor.
God calls each of us to love and serve him and others, each in our own individual and unique way. May God bless us as we seek to follow his will.