John 1:6-8, 19-28
The Call of St. John the Baptist by Rev. Paul deLadurantaye
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.
A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. And this is the testimony of John. When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites (to him) to ask him, "Who are you?" he admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, I am not the Messiah." So they asked him, "What are you then? Are you Elijah?" And he said, " I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" He answered, "No." So they said to him, "Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?" He said: "I am 'the voice of one crying out in the desert, "Make straight the way of the Lord,"' as Isaiah the prophet said." Some Pharisees were also sent. They asked him, "Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet?" John answered them, "I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to unite." This happened in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
Last week's Gospel recorded St. Mark's account of John the Baptist's activity at the Jordan River as he prepared the people for the arrival and public mission of Jesus. In the Gospel reading for this week, St. John describes the same event for us. He begins by telling us that "There was a man sent from God whose name was John." The name "John" (Yohannen in Hebrew) means "Yahweh is gracious - a very appropriate name for the one who was to herald the greatest act of graciousness and kindness God ever demonstrated in the history of humanity.
In John the Baptist, we see a wonderful example of God's providence at work among us. John's conception, birth, life in the desert and role as herald of the Messiah are all effects of God's intervention on our behalf. John the Baptist was sent by God "to bear witness to the light," to tell the Chosen People (and through them the world) that God's eternal plan was being implemented; that the incarnation of His divine Son had taken place. Weak and sinful men and women were to become children of God by adoption. Pardon for sins would be earned by the bodily sufferings of the incarnate Son of God. His resurrection would conquer death, and we would rise again and enter into the everlasting life of the Holy Trinity.
Through all the long centuries, God had been preparing His people for this Good News. Especially through the prophets, He had given some fairly clear indications of His eternal plan of salvation. John the Baptist was the last of the line of prophets, and he was the greatest of them all. It was his mission to point out to his audience the Son of God in our midst, the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."
John, however, was sent not only for those of his day and age, but for people of all time. Over the past 2,000 years, the Good News of the incarnation, of our redemption and exaltation, has spread over much of the world. But just as in the groups who came from Jerusalem that day in the year 30 A.D., there have been, in every generation, those who will not hear John's message of conversion and preparation. There are some who are so self-centered and proud that they think they have no need for God or His providence in their lives.
During this Advent season, we are invited to listen to the call of John the Baptist, and from our hearts repent of our sins. Let us prepare for Christmas, the anniversary of Our Lord's birth, by cleansing ourselves of all sinful attachments, by making a firm resolution to follow the Lamb throughout our life. By doing so, we too shall "bear witness to the light." The way we live our faith will light the way for others, so that they, too, may be able to hear the call of God. In that way, each one of us can be another John the Baptist, by giving testimony to God's loving and fatherly interest in, and care for, all people. If we prepare well in these days of Advent, then, like John, we will be able to point the way, not to ourselves, but the Christ, the Messiah and the true light, who came to enlighten us all with His saving truth and grace.
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