He must increase; I must decrease. -Jn.3:30
I’m not gonna lie. When my provincial asked me to consider leaving Los Angeles and move to Boise, Idaho to do campus ministry, I had a very difficult time saying “yes”. Surprised at the request, I said with much hesitation, “Oh, um…okaaay... Can I pray about it?” “Of course”, he said, “just let me know when you have an answer”. I had no desire whatsoever to go to a place that I had stereotyped as everything LA was not. Plus, I’m not a big fan of potatoes and I thought that’s all people ate up there!
For four months, I agonized over whether to say “yes” to my provincial (so much for looking to Mary’s fiat as an example of obedience!). For four months, I commiserated with my friends about having to give up my acting career again, just as I was beginning to make in roads. For four months, I dreaded the thought of having to move again and leave my good friends behind, after only being back in LA for two years. For four months, I feared that my brother Jesuits were thinking that I couldn’t hold down a job since I tended to be missioned to a new location or ministry every two years since ordination.
Notice how many times I used the word “I” in the previous paragraphs? Basically, for four months I was so concerned about myself that I didn’t make the time nor had the energy to actually “pray about it” and discern whether God indeed wanted me in Boise.
In today’s gospel reading, John the Baptist knew his place in relationship to Jesus. He recognized that his part as the “voice crying out in the wilderness” had been fulfilled and therefore, as he confidently says, “He must increase; I must decrease”.
Such is the case with each one of us. Christ must have primacy of place in our lives, not in some theoretical way, or as we pay lip service to our relationship with Jesus, but in an actual, and practical way that leaves us feeling humbled and showing greater trust in his providence, care and mercy. Does that resonate with you?
For me, it wasn’t until I actually took the time to “pray about it” during my annual 8-day silent retreat, that I was finally able to let go of the grip I had on my life and “decrease”, because I had allowed Christ to “increase” in my life. Through several scripture contemplations, I realized Christ wanted, no, needed me in Boise, so who was I to say no?! You know the saying, “let go and let God”? Well, I’ve come to fully believe the reverse is more true. “Let God, to let go”!
So here I am, 5 months since arriving in Boise, and again, I’m not gonna lie, but I LOVE it up here! So far, this has been one of the most rewarding and grace-filled ministries I have ever been a part of since becoming a Jesuit. And I believe it’s because I can honestly say, Christ invited me to be here. And when Christ calls, there can only be joy, peace, love, and hope. Believe it or not, I finally even ate my first real Idaho potato since arriving (french fries, notwithstanding) just the other day, and it was delicious!
As we enter more fully into this new year, let’s make it our resolution to “decrease” in pride, ego, and self-importance, so that we can leave room for Christ to “increase” his love, hope and mercy for us all.
What aspect of your life do you need to create more space and “decrease”, in order that Christ may “increase” in you and for you?
Radmar Jao SJ