Know Thyself in Advent Light
December 12, 2023
The man answered, “I don’t know whether he’s a sinner. Here’s what I do know: I was blind and now I see.”
~ John 9:25 (CEB)
‘Know thyself’ was written on the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Legend tells that the seven sages of ancient Greece—philosophers, statesmen, and law-givers who laid the foundation for Western culture—gathered in Delphi to inscribe ‘know thyself’ at the entry to its sacred oracle.
As we embrace the Advent season, we find that this injunction, ‘Know thyself,’ takes on a poignant significance. For in the quiet anticipation of the coming Messiah, we are reminded that the path to understanding others begins with an awareness of ourselves. In the teachings of Jesus, this truth is elegantly threaded, a spiritual seam connecting the ancient wisdom of Delphi to the divine revelations of Bethlehem.
What is so vital about self-knowledge? Jesus certainly did not leave the ‘self’ out of his first-century teachings, which we find in the Gospels today. For instance, Jesus taught his followers to first take the log out of their own eye since only then can we see clearly to help with the splinter in another’s. In essence, Jesus said that before focusing on others, we should first take a good look at ourselves.
The blind man in John 9 learned a great lesson in addition to being healed by Jesus. Great realizations start with ourselves: “I can’t tell you whether all those bad things you say about Jesus are true. What I can tell you is how Jesus changed me.” A truth spoken from personal conviction is a powerful one.
What do we make of the blind man’s words? For one, let’s stay with ourselves when another’s fault is just waiting to be put under the spotlight. And let’s start with ourselves by sharing with others those transformations God has worked in our lives. They are first-hand and real. As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ, let the gift of self-awareness be our offering.
Merciful God, help us to love others as we love ourselves. Amen.