Duplicity is Difficult, Pray that People Don’t Care
I can be snarky at times; just ask my mom. She’ll tell you that I was grounded most of 10th grade because of my mouth. Back then it was called sass.
During that time in my life, I struggled with who I was and how I wanted others to see me. Most kids do. I just took a longer and more dangerous route in figuring things out.
Reflecting on today’s Gospel reading (John 1:45-51), I found myself connecting with a man in the story, Nathaniel, in more ways than one.
First, his snarkiness, which is probably more akin to forthrightness than sass. But, still. I identify.
Second, his humility, which I hope to attain. Nathaniel was well grounded in who he was. He was not afraid to stand firm in his beliefs, and yet he yielded to truth when he saw it.
In today’s reading, the disciple Philip runs to tell his buddy, Nathaniel, about a guy named Jesus who comes into town from Nazareth (a little Podunk village). Philip is excited for them to meet because he thinks Jesus might be the Messiah, the Savior they were waiting for.
But, Nathaniel, a faithful Jew, isn’t buying it and gets a bit snarky. He blurts out,
“Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
Although cynical, he is curious and goes to meet Philip’s friend.
Jesus sees Nathaniel coming toward him and says,
“Here is a true child of Israel.
There is no duplicity in him.”
To which Nathaniel asks,
“How do you know me?”
The Nazarene responds saying that He knew Nathaniel even before Philip introduced him, and that He saw him “under a fig tree” (a figure of speech signifying the awaiting of the Messiah). Based on Jesus’ answer, Nathaniel proclaims Jesus to be the Son of God, the King of Israel.
Where am I going with this?
First, some background:
The mom who grounded me in 10th grade was the same loving mother who raised my brothers and me in the Church: Sunday Mass, Catholic school, CCD, youth group, etc.
As with many rebellious teens, I abandoned my faith along with any friends that were associated through church. I began hanging around a rough crowd. This new group of ‘friends’ were trouble; lived a life of drugs, alcohol, sex, rock & roll, and I loved it. Such freedom! Living on the edge was… invigorating!
It’s also physically and spiritually dangerous. This lifestyle is difficult to get out of; it’s addicting for all sorts of reasons. It leaves one with the feeling that you can’t go back. Things said and done are unforgivable. I was damaged, unworthy, and unlovable.
But, God thought differently and He wanted me back. I couldn’t see the way to Him through the fog of sin, lies and deceit. I needed help, but pride wouldn’t allow me to ask for it. My soul needed a lifeline.
It was the prayers of my mother and father that reached out and tugged on my heart.
This tugging began a battle within.
Part of me wanted so badly to come home and find rest; addiction wanted me to stay rooted in sin.
I’d go to Mass, but would be hung over from partying the night before.
I would pray but those prayers were filled empty promises not to use drugs again.
I would be home for wholesome family meals, but sweat bullets wondering if my parents knew that I was having sex.
There were church friends, and there were party friends.
I acted one way during the week, lived a lie on Sunday mornings.
Party mask then purity mask… switching off and on depending on who I was with, where we were, and who I wanted people to think I was.
The longer this went on the harder it was to keep track of the masks.
And, I wondered…
Which mask was real?
Living a double life, aka duplicity, is exhausting. But then something clicked.
It dawned on me that I felt at peace during Mass on Sunday. Peace was something never, ever felt while partying. Quite the opposite. My life outside of Mass was filled with anxiety, fear, distrust, sadness, paranoia, and shame.
I wanted peace, but I also didn’t want my ‘friends’ to think I was turning into a “Jesus freak”. Hence, the masks.
Thank God that the yearning for peace was stronger than the fear of being ridiculed. Something in my soul caused me to pray a very simple prayer that I’ll never forget.
“Lord, let me not care what others think.”
God answered that little cry for help and slowly the ‘friends’ drifted away along with their drugs, alcohol, and sexual temptations.
Freedom was settling in.
Shame was replaced with hope.
Peace and joy could be felt outside of Sunday mornings.
And, a renewed strength replaced the exhaustion of swapping masks. In fact, the sacrament of Confession destroyed those masks.
By no means was I living a saintly life; temptations were still there. Sin was still part of my life but I was working on getting ‘right with God’. The biggest change was that I no longer cared about what people thought of me and my faith. In fact, I became emboldened and began to defend the beauty of the Catholic Church and the teachings of the Magisterium. I was also falling in love with Jesus of Nazareth.
30+ years later, I’m still a work in progress. But, like Nathaniel, I have yielded to truth.
Jesus, my Savior and King, has called me. God knew me before I was born for He knit me in my mothers womb. (Ps 139:13)
As long as I continue to strive for humility, those masks will never return.
Snarkiness is something to work on. But, I believe Nathaniel and I share the commonality of authenticity.
One day I hope to hear:
“She is a true child of God.
There is no duplicity in her.”
Pray for me as I pray for you.