Gospel Jn 1:6-8, 19-28
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 Christ.” 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 Christ 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 untie.” This happened in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
Many years ago a great preacher came to Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay where I was a missionary to give a series of lectures. He was really good and after the first day left us yearning for more. When he walked in on the second day, as he came up the aisle, the whole hall stood up and applauded him. When the preacher reached the podium, after a few moments, he help up his hands to quiet the crowd and then made this profound statement. He said; “If the donkey which took Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday thought that the applause was for him, he would be doubly a donkey. Let us applaud Jesus!” There was silence for a moment and then there was even greater applause. This time, not simply because of the words of wisdom but, because of the evident humility of the preacher. He understood and accepted his vocation in life, something which is extremely important for all of us.
In the Gospel reading for this Sunday we have the story of John the Baptist who is extremely clear about his vocation. He came to testify to the Light, very aware that he himself was not the light. When he is asked, “Who are you?” he tells those questioning him who he is not. He is not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet. Those questioning him are not satisfied with that answer and so ask further questions; why do you baptize if you are not one of these persons? It is then that John, again in reference to the One whose coming he is called to announce, declares who he really is. “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 untie.” John accepts the fact that he is not the great One. He does not hanker for greatness; he knows that many see him as great, many are going to the Jordon to be baptized by him. He does not let that acclaim distract him from his vocation, which is to point out the truly great One. The One who would baptize, not with water, but with the Holy Spirit. John was a humble man, he knew his truth; he accepted it; he lived it.
Humility is not denying one’s gifts and talents. Humility is always the truth. John always spoke the truth; he witnessed to the truth and for that witness he gave his life. When we are humble people we can accept the truth of our vocation and live it, knowing that we are doing what God has called us to do. Often in life we want power and status. We want to be seen and acclaimed, forgetting that after we have done all that we meant to do, whether great or small we are still unworthy servants. The difference between those who are saints and those who are not is very simply that ability to do what we are asked to do and then thanking God for allowing us to do the good which we may have done. Saints always witness to the truth and the truth is that God is the great One, not we ourselves and our vocation is to make him known. John the Baptist did this, as did Mary, who would say; “All generations will call me blessed” because he who is mighty has done great things for me.” May all of us, you and I seek to make him known. That, ultimately, is our vocation.
All powerful and ever-loving God, you call us your children to make you known throughout the world. Our desire for fame and fortune often makes us forget that we are called to that task. Help us like John the Baptist always remember that you are the One for without You, we are nothing. We ask this through the intercession of Mary, our Mother and Jesus Christ your Son. Amen