One of my favorite movies is Moonstruck. Starring Cher and Olympia Dukakis, it is a wonderful story about a rather interesting Italian family. In one scene in particular, Olympia Dukakis’s character decides that since her husband is having an affair, she will as well. So out on a date she goes. (Incidentally, her date is John Mahoney, who played Frasier’s father on the sitcom.) At one point on her date, as John Mahoney’s character walks her back to her place, they pass her husband and his mistress on the corner. The interesting part of the scene occurs what happens on the stoop. John Mahoney gives Olympia Dukakis kiss and says “good night”. Olympia Dukakis responds “good night.” Once again John Mahoney gives Olympia Dukakis kiss and says “good night”, which Olympia Dukakis responds the same way.
Then comes the most interesting part of this scene. It is obvious that John Mahoney is expected to be invited in for the night. But finally, Olympia Dukakis leans close to John Mahoney, kisses him on the cheek, and says, “I can’t. I know who I am.”
Saint John the Baptist provided an identity crisis for the early community. Because he was one who baptized, attracted a great number of followers, and stood up for what was right, many people thought that John might indeed be the Messiah. In fact, John is asked that question directly. While it would’ve been easy for John to say “Yes, I am the Messiah” he knows who he is and he knows who he is not.
That is because like Olympia Dukakis John the Baptist knew who he was. And he was not the Messiah. And yet, in the story of salvation, John’s role is quite important. John prepares the way for Jesus. John testifies to the light that is the Christ. John prepares hearts to receive the word of Christ, by calling them into the desert to be baptized in the Jordan as a sign of their conversion to God.
The very heart of Christian vocation is knowing who we are. We are children of God, people called to an abundant and life-giving relationship with their Savior. But we must realize that we are who we are. Nothing more, nothing less. Like John the Baptist, and even Jesus, we simply seek to find the father’s will to do it in our lives.