Directing Others to Christ
John the Baptist is mentioned in all four Gospels; there are sixty-two verses in scripture about him. Next to Jesus himself, John is the most mentioned person in the Gospels. Like Jesus, the Baptist faced a challenging vocation. Considering all the challenges and demands, we might ask John: Was it worth the sacrifice? We hear his response: Certainly! Absolutely! It is a great, unique privilege to prepare the pathway of the Messiah, the Anointed One.
Familiar Words. In today’s Gospel, we hear the phrase we repeat at every Eucharist: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” John introduces Jesus in a variety of ways: “One is coming after me who ranks before me” (Jn 1:29-30). “I am the witness that he is the Chosen One of God” (Jn 1:34). “I am not worthy to loosen his sandal-strap” (Jn 1:27). “I myself am not the Christ” (Jn 3:28). John compares himself to the bridegroom’s friend and rejoices with him, saying: “This same joy I feel, and now it is complete” (Jn 3:29). Thus, in everything, “He must increase, I must decrease” (Jn 3:30).
All Christian ministry and service necessarily follows the Baptist’s pattern: leading people to Jesus: only Jesus, always Jesus, nothing and no one but Jesus. This is the privilege of being the forerunner, the precursor, the guide, the conduit, the one who is not the light, but bears authentic witness to the true light (Jn 1:6-8, 15). This mission is not drudgery or a burdensome duty; it is positively a privilege!
Inviting Others, Challenging Others. The Baptist gathered a circle of disciples; they followed his life-style (cf. Mt 9:14+; 11:18; Mk 2:18+; Lk. 5:33+; 7:33). Yet, John did not seek to “possess” them; he readily sent them to Jesus to inquire about His messiahship (Mt 11:2-6; Lk 7:18-23). Scripture exegetes believe that many of John’s disciples would later have become Jesus’ disciples.
John’s broad mission of exhortation, repentance, and announcing salvific good news is consistently aimed at pointing all to Jesus: “someone more powerful than I … who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Lk 3:16-17). Ultimately, John baptizes Jesus, occasioning the opening of the heavens, the descent of the Spirit, and the declaration: “You are my Son, the Beloved; my favor rests on you” (cf. Mt 3:17; Mk 1:10-11; Lk 3:22). John’s ministry—all genuine ministry—has one direction and focus: the person of Jesus (Jn 3:25-30).
Authentic Witness. The Baptist remained faithful to his God-given vocation. The Church’s liturgy captures John’s mission in the Preface designated for his feast; it can also serve as a paradigm for our Christian witness:
“You set John the Baptist apart from others,
marking him out with special favor….
You chose John the Baptist…
to show the world its redeemer,
the Lamb of Sacrifice….
You found John worthy of a martyr’s death,
his last and greatest act of witness to your Son.”
James H. Kroeger, M.M.
2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lord Jesus, you sent your cousin John
to prepare the way for you
through repentance, baptism and witness
to your light in the darkness
to your truth in a world lost in lies
and to your peace despite violence.
Give us, Lord Jesus, the fiery zeal
of John the Baptizer, that we too might
make mountains low, raise up valleys
and make straight a highway to lead
all nations to your love for every
people and nation.
O Lamb of God, have mercy on us
You, who take away the sins of the world
cleanse and purify our hearts and minds
that we might seek and surely hear Your voice
among your people.
Lord Jesus, we are not worthy to have you
enter our souls, but say the word
and we shall be healed.
Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M.M.