“I’m John,” With No Last Name

“Hi everybody. I’m John. I don’t have a last name. I guess there weren’t enough people in Bethany to make me need one. After all, I’m special, A-Number 1, King of the Hill. How many kids can say, “My mom had me when she was eighty!” I’m John. Son of Elizabeth and Zechariah. The only child, (again, with the chosen, special feeling inside of me). I don’t know why they didn’t have other kids.

So, I guess I must be something outstanding. Remarkable even. Like Frank would sing centuries later, ‘I planned each chartered course, Each careful step along the by-way, And more, much more than this, I did it my way. Yes, there were times I’m sure you knew, When I bit off more than I could chew, But through it all when there was doubt, I ate it up and spit it out, faced it all, And I stood tall, And did it my way.’

I lived that song centuries earlier. No orchestra but I heard them in the background. ‘I’m the one! I’m the chosen.’ Near-death parents, newborn, named John when my dad doubted they’d even have a child. God made dad mute because of that to show you how very, very special I am to this salvation story.

Speaking of my dad, have you ever played catch with an eighty-year old? I’d throw the ball. It’d hit him in the head. He’d go inside the house looking for some ice and there I am staring at the thrown ball. (Just try finding ice in the desert.)

Yep. I’m the one. All this talk about the Kingdom of God from the prophets of old now rested on my shoulders and I was ready to shoulder that responsibility. I’m John (without a last name).

‘And I stood tall, And did it my way, I’ve loved, I’ve laughed, and cried, I’ve had my fill, my share of losing, And now, as tears subside, I find it all so amusing, To think I did all that, And may I say, not in a shy way, Oh no, oh no, not me, I did it my way. For what is a man, what has he got?’

I had it all. The only guy in town with the name John. Receiving a message from God, if you will, pronouncing me the ‘Chairman of the Board,’ or at least BMIB, ‘Big Man In Bethany.’

Now don’t think I forgot about … him. Yeah, him. Quiet sort, leaving his parents for temple study for three days. Mary says to Joseph, ‘I thought he was with you!’ Joseph, who has no spoken lines in the Bible just stares back at his lovely wife. (Where’s Child Support Services when you need them?)

Did you know that I’m six months older than he is? I can out run him to Bethany’s McDonald’s. (It’s their first one in the Mideast!) I could out talk him and make him think forever about something I only said in passing. What a cousin to have.

Frank continues to haunt me by singing, ‘If not himself then he has naught, To say the things he truly feels, And not the words of one who kneels…’

It got me thinking. I needed a look to make me stand out. To make me distinctive for the fine, aspiring prophet I was to be with Frank singing about only me in the background. Something furry to wrap around. I got that at Goodwill. But, something more, something more was still missing. Diet! That’s it. They’ll all remember me for eating weird things to show how important I am. (The Bible never talks about the throwing up part, that’s only between you and me.) I needed a gig and what better place when living in the desert, then to go into the desert – alone.

Unlike Frank with four marriages (Nancy, Ava, Mia, Barbara), I was truly alone. Carving it out for myself and only for myself, ‘My Way.’

Alone. Desert. It does something to you. The solitude and only the windy sounds at night that make you fearful for your safety and yet at the very same time feeling very safe. The nothingness surrounding you while everything else enters you in a peaceful peace; if you don’t mind me being redundant. Double dose, I call it.

You know that the desert thing was my idea but then he had to steal it and make it a bigger thing about it than I did. He had Satan (three times!). Oh, well. All I got was Frank singing only to me in the background ‘My Way.’ I guess I slowly began to get the idea.

I learned a great deal about myself during my time in that desolate place. Frank’s song slowly began to evaporate, even when there’s no water to do it; but it did it.

Thinking back on it now, my cousin’s and my desert experience had opposite results. My desert time took me away from me. His desert time took him to where he needed to be.

Now, you know about the sandal thing when I said, ‘I’m not worthy to untie his.’ I was slowly learning my important place in this life story, even if took a long time. But still, there remains a bit of Frank within me. Please don’t forget who got to baptize the Son of God. In the Jordan river. With people watching and wondering all around, ‘Who is this guy?’ Not me, but my cousin. Who did all that? Moi!

I’d also like to add that God is my uncle, My uncle actually baptized my cousin. I didn’t. After that I saw the reality of who he is and who I am. This cousin of mine began to suddenly talk a lot more. A whole lot more. To all groups of people. He found out who he is rather than who I thought I was.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not angry or disappointed. I even get to lose my head at the end of my life story. You should all try it. It wasn’t a big deal at the end with the dancing and all that stuff. I lost my head many years before that. I found my heart and my soul. So, lose your head and your silly thoughts. Instead, cherish and treasure the messages living and breathing within your heart and soul. That’s what my uncle wanted from me. From all of us. It’s well worth it.

Hell, because of all that I finally got a last name in that small town of Bethany. ‘The Baptist’ is my last name. All because I listened to God, my cousin and my second cousin (once removed), the Holy Spirit. Lucky for me and really lucky for all of you – that I didn’t do it ’My Way.’”

About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). www.Salvatorians.com. Six books on the Catholic church and U.S. culture are available on Amazon.com.
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