Where I am From

Scripture (John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30)

Jesus moved about within Galilee;
he did not wish to travel in Judea,
because the Jews were trying to kill him.
But the Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near.

But when his brothers had gone up to the feast,
he himself also went up, not openly but as it were in secret.

Some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said,
"Is he not the one they are trying to kill?
And look, he is speaking openly and they say nothing to him.
Could the authorities have realized that he is the Christ?
But we know where he is from.
When the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from."
So Jesus cried out in the temple area as he was teaching and said,
"You know me and also know where I am from.
Yet I did not come on my own,
but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true.
I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me."
So they tried to arrest him,
but no one laid a hand upon him,
because his hour had not yet come.

 

Reflection

I am from Staten Island, the fifth borough of New York City, often called “the forgotten borough.” Despite the fact that over half a million people live on Staten Island, most Americans confuse it with Long Island (not a borough), or do not recognize it as part of NYC – if they recognize it at all.  

Staten Islanders are often characterized as having a chip on their shoulder, having to justify their borough’s existence to even their city mates. Manhattan stands for itself. Bronx has Yankee Stadium. Queens has Shea (now Citi Field). Brooklyn no longer has a ball club but could be considered a city in its own right. And in the post-Dump years (you know, the landfill you could see from space?) Staten Island is perhaps now best known for its iconic orange Ferry – a vessel which allows you to leave the borough it symbolizes.  When I left home to attend Elon University in North Carolina, I found it far easier to say I was from “New York City.” If anyone were really curious, I would go further and say “Brooklyn” – where I did attend high school and spent hundreds of hours of my early life.

There was a quote over the doors of my high school, in bold metal letters – “THE TRUTH SHALL MAKE YOU FREE.” That truth and freedom cry out from the pages of today’s Gospel. The truth is dangerous. The truth has men out to kill him. The truth, despite his radiance, travels in secret to be with his brothers. People whisper in the corners. Is that him? Do the cops know? Why don’t they grab him? Others say – and I can almost picture the others here today in the risk-averse, quantitative aeon we live in – we know him. He is from Nazareth. His father is the carpenter. He is not the Christ; how could he be?

The answer from Christ – you know me and yet you know me not at all, because you do not know my Father. I make this mistake all the time, so I know it well – the others in this passage saw only a man when really there was the Spirit at work.  

I read this passage and thought at first – man, I like this, Jesus is finding himself and finding his voice. That’s my human projection onto the scripture, anyway! Jesus had his voice since the beginning, when the Word was with God. He doesn’t need to find his. But we are all still trying to find ours. I would so love to find my voice. I would love to stand out in the crowd who thought they could classify me, label me, and cry out my own goodness to them. Instead I accuse myself and shut up before saying even a word.

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Inspired by Christ and inspired by the words above my high school, I will say now, you do know me, and you know where I am from. I am Michael from Staten Island, New York. I grew up on William Street in a white house with my brothers and sisters. We read books late into the night and drank cups of tea in the mornings. I come from my mother and father, who selflessly gave me the life I am learning how to live. I make mistakes every single day – and every single day I ask for the grace to overcome them. I am not a big shot New York Yankee. I am a Staten Island Yankee (the minor-league affiliate that plays near the ferry terminal). I am a simple Irish guy who likes to read, learn from strangers, and take long walks through the forgotten places – where God always surprises me and sends me blessings.

 
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These Lenten reflections are written by friends of 12plus1, Inc.  Discovery House a service-based gap year experience for participants ages 18-20 will begin August 2018.  Please share this information with an individuals who may want to participate or support this new ministry.

 

Questions

  • Where do you see God at work in your life today – have you read something, met someone, observed something in nature that speaks to you of His works?
  • What is one time you felt a sense of failure in the last week?  How might God restore and rejuvenate you from this event?
  • Who is one positive person who knows you, and knows where you are from? Can you write a few words about what that person might say about you? How are you feeling about your Lenten journey?
  • Is there anything you wish for in your prayer life these last couple of weeks before Easter?
Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you, try to figure out what you have to say.
— Barbara Kingsolver

Action 

PRAY to always know where you are from and to whom you belong. 

FAST from self-doubt

GIVE voice to your faith to someone who needs to be inspired.

Author

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Mike McCormick is a former volunteer with the Augustinian Volunteers, where he served in Ventura, CA from 2014-2015. Mike currently works as the Outreach Coordinator for Catholic Volunteer Network in Washington, DC.