Before Christmas I was travelling to visit my mum. At London Heathrow it turned out that my flight to Berlin had been cancelled. After two hours standing in a queue I was offered another flight to my destination, but with a different airline from a different terminal. I accepted the offer and then was told to use a train the Heathrow Express, or HEX. I left the desk happy, but a minute later my happiness vanished like smoke on the wind. In the whole enormous Terminal 5 there was not a single signpost showing the way to the HEX. Eventually I got the train because several members of staff gave me directions and showed me the way, when I asked them.
I think people generally like to be (or at least feel) independent. But we realise very early in our lives we are not and we cannot be. We live in a net of mutual connections and relations. We think about ourselves as independent individuals, but even a small scale disaster painfully reveals our delusions. For some people the truth of our dependency is harmful and hardly acceptable. But for those who are able to accept that in a positive way becomes something useful and helpful. We just need other people as they need us in return.
In today’s gospel Saint John the Baptist pointed out Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. We can imagine that situation: There were many people at the banks of the Jordan. Jesus was among them, but he didn’t stand out of the crowd because of his unusual outfit, appearance or behaviour. There were many people baptised by John before him and many others after him – he appeared to be just one of many. People around didn’t recognize him as someone special; but John did. The Baptist recognized in Jesus the Chosen One, the Messiah, and pointed at him. Two of John’s disciples followed Jesus and eventually, from their own knowledge, understood that he was the Christ. Years later those disciples would become people pointing at Jesus for others.
Today at St Sylvester’s a dozen young people are officially starting their direct preparation for the sacrament of Confirmation. They are stepping on a path directed by all of us; first of all by their parents, but also their families, teachers and members of our parish community. It’s worth asking ourselves if we are good signposts for the younger generation. Can they (and other people around) see our lives as simple and clear signs of God’s love? Young people are at a starting point of a journey to mature faith. But this might be a good opportunity to revise our own commitment.