“There Was A Man Named John, Sent From God.”
Today’s Gospel presents John the Baptist, the herald, the one sent by God to prepare the coming of his son, Jesus.
The text of John’s gospel dwells on two aspects of John the Baptist’s character: first, his role as witness; second, his humility and truthfulness.
‘Witness’ is an important theme in John’s Gospel. Not only the Baptist, but also the Samaritan woman, the works of Jesus, the prophecies, the crowd, the Holy Spirit, the disciples, and the Father himself all bear witness to Jesus, the Word of God. To bear witness is to testify by word and deed to someone more important.
John the Baptist bears witness to the ‘light’, another key theme in the Gospel.
“He (John) was not himself the light, but he came to bear witness to the light.” Earlier, John had written of Jesus, “the light shines on in the dark, and the darkness has never quenched it.”
A good example of the witness of John the Baptist now follows: he is accosted by a delegation of priests, Levites and Pharisees as to his authority to preach and to baptize.
At that time, converts to Judaism would be baptized, that is, immersed in water as a rite of purification. Was this John the Baptist’s intention? it was asked. Was he the messiah? Or was he Elijah, greatest of the prophets, come back to earth ? In every instance, the Baptist disclaims such titles. “I am a voice crying aloud in the wilderness…” he says.
“Among you, though you do not know him, stands the one who is to come after me. I am not worthy to unfasten his shoes.”
John the Baptist is transparently humble, claiming nothing of his own, asserting nothing for himself. He is a pointer to the One who is to come. He is “the friend of the bridegroom”, who disappears from the scene when the bride appears. He will not distract by drawing attention to himself.
What a wonderful model for all of us, apostles! May our lives and deeds bear ‘witness’ to the Lord’s presence, may we be humble and transparent to the Jesus in our midst !
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