“I just want it to end.” “No one will miss me if I was gone.” “My family would be better off without me.” These are phrases I have heard in my tenure as a crisis worker on a suicide hotline. Callers who contact the hotline are usually struggling with thoughts of suicide or various life crises (e.g. job termination, divorce, sexual orientation recognition, etc.). The pain a caller feels has become unbearable to a point where she can no longer carry her pain alone. As a crisis worker, I have to face the limitations in being able to assist someone with only a listening ear and a compassionate word.
I am forced to counter my finitude. Everyone has a similar experience of working others where all our efforts have been spent, and we have to hand over the matter or person’s to God’s care. Parenting, caring for a sick loved one, or confronting a friend are more common examples. This experience of finitude and humility is at the root of today’s Gospel.
Jesus describes John the Baptizer as the greatest man who has ever been born of a woman (Mt 11:11). Today, we hear John’s recognition of his limitation. He is not the Son of God. He baptizes with water and preaches the repentance of sins. When the Son of Man comes, He will baptize with the Spirit and take away the sins of the world. When John sees Jesus along the shoreline, he sees the fulfillment of his ministry. All that John did was meant to point to someone who was to come. I imagine John experienced relief. John was no longer alone in his ministry.
The goal of all Christian ministry is to lead people to Jesus. It is the good we seek that we cannot do without God’s love and grace. Our experiences of finitude—whether parenting or counseling people in distress—acquaint us with the power of God that supervenes on our simple efforts to care for one another. When I get to follow-up with callers, it is amazing to hear how God has worked in someone’s life to find strength in a time of crisis. When we let go of control, and let God come into a situation, God surprises in how He cares for us. We need a reminder how our efforts are in God’s hands, and the ultimate goal is to lead people to God.
When have you experienced your finitude? When and how have you felt Jesus carrying your efforts to their fulfillment?