Daily Reflection
January 12th, 2002
Tom Purcell
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1 John 5:14-21
Psalm 149:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 9
John 3:22-30

"Be on your guard against idols."  "He must increase, while I must decrease."  What incredibly difficult challenges the scripture poses for us with these two simple phrases!

We all have idols - the trick is in recognizing and admitting that we do.  Idols for me are those people and things that are seductively attractive, that seem so good, and yet can pull me away from a life of balance and resonance with God's will.  Idols are not just things that we clearly recognize as "bad" - idols can be good things and people that we use inappropriately.  Good people, people such as you and I, not just "those" people, have idols.  Believers as well as non-believers can have idols.  I have difficulty in saying "no" to seemingly good requests.  I think when my saying "yes" to otherwise legitimate requests interferes with my fundamental relationship with God, I am worshipping an idol.  The people who receive my service are grateful, and I have done a good deed.  But I may have placed the deed, the act, ahead of what God is calling me to do at this time of my life.

John the Baptist realizes his place in life.  He knows he is not the messiah.  He also knows that whatever fame and following he has achieved must give way to the messiah.  John has a proper sense of self.  The challenge for us is to recognize our sense of self and to act on it.  We must decrease our sense of self-importance and instead knowingly place ourselves in God's hands.  We must recognize that we are the lesser and God is the greater.  We must believe that as we "decrease" ourselves our love for God increases.  It is easy to be self-centered, today perhaps more than at other time in human history.  We are bombarded with messages to center on self through our popular culture.  And some self-centeredness is necessary for us to be aware of who we are, what our gifts are, and what God is calling us to do with them.  For me this phrase is gentle reminder, something similar to what my mother used to say - "Don't let it go to your head."  A good sense of self doesn't translate into focus on self.

For me, these two scripture passages renew the call for balance in my life.  I need to know who I am.  I need to give myself over to God's will.  I need to avoid letting someone or something, regardless of how good they appear, become too powerful in my life.  And so my prayer at the beginning of this new year is to ask God for the clarity of discernment, the vision to recognize idols, and the strength to lessen myself in serving God's greater glory.

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