John 1:6-8, 19-28
You Are Called
by Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
To Sunday Gospel Reflections Index
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.
A fitting celebration of Christmas demands preparation. It demands an effort to ponder the depth of the beauty and mystery of Godís love and truth poured out in this seismic event that took place in the fullness of time in the tiny town of Bethlehem. For this, we need a period of spiritual preparation. Hence, the church provides us with the four weeks of Advent.
More than 2,000 years ago, God sent John the Baptist to prepare the people of God for the coming of the Messiah, the Son of the living God. We can learn today from Jesusí cousin how to prepare our hearts for the kind of remembrance that is appropriate and which ultimately leads to the transformation of our lives.
John the Evangelist says in the first line of todayís Gospel about the Baptist, ďA man named John was sent from God.Ē I do not think we should overlook that simple statement. Almighty God sent John into the world with a mission: ďI am the voice of one crying out in the desert, Ďmake straight the way of the Lord.í Ē As a result, John had a focus for his life that was clear and greatly needed. John surrendered his life to this God-given mission with zeal and abandon. By Godís grace, John accomplished this mission with a life of deep prayer, courageous preaching, the offering of a baptism of repentance, standing up for the truth and pointing the whole world to Godís only-begotten Son whose sandals he was unworthy to unfasten.
Do you know that you also are called by God? Every one of us, particularly as a result of baptism and confirmation, is called personally by God. He calls each of us by name. First, we are called simply to draw close to him, sit at his feet, encounter his love and become a disciple, a student of the master. Second, God sends us out on a mission that he entrusts to us, one that he has planned from before time began. Each of us has a role, big or small, to play in the building of Godís kingdom on this earth. Some people walking this earth may only encounter God and see his face through their interaction, regular or chance, with us. One thing that we learn from Advent and from John the Baptist is that God is counting on us to be faithful to our personal call.
A second outstanding element of John and his mission is his humility. John was enormously successful at his undertaking. He lived his life with such authenticity and preached a baptism of repentance with such effectiveness that people came in great numbers to hear him and be baptized by him in the Jordan near Bethany. As a result, he caught the attention of the scribes and Pharisees. When they approached him to enquire about his identity and the source of his authority, John was so quick to highlight that his purpose was to help prepare the world for the coming of the Messiah and to point everyone to Jesus. His humility caught them off guard. It was disarming to the religious leaders. It was, in fact, one more way that John imitated Christ. His humility added strength to his witness.
How well are you traveling the path of humility? Do you grasp at the core of your being that all of your talents, gifts and successes are 100 percent the fruit of Godís grace in your life? Everything, even your commitment to work hard, disciplined effort to build up your skills, willingness to go the extra mile, insights that your colleagues do not have, skills that your spouse lacks and natural intelligence are all gifts of love from the Father. What is your humility quotient these days?
One final thought for the day comes from one of Johnís forerunners, the prophet Isaiah. Today, Isaiah states, ďI rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul.Ē Isaiah was referring to Godís blessings in his own day, but also was alluding to Jesus, the greatest of all Godís blessings. The Incarnation of Christ should cause every Christian to rejoice heartily in the Lord. This is not the joy that comes from a good joke, a favorite candy bar or a smile from a stranger. We are speaking of a deep joy, a hearty rejoicing, indeed, the joy of the soul. This deep and lasting joy is the fruit of an encounter with Christ and of dwelling in his presence. It comes from pondering long and hard the largesse of his being and his gifts. It comes from realizing that the almighty, all-powerful, eternal God wants to be in a personal and intimate relationship with me for all of eternity. The result of this amazing encounter with Christ Ö ďmy God is the joy of my soul.Ē
As we draw ever closer to our liturgical celebration of the wonderful birth of our Savior, we are encouraged by the church and the sacred Scriptures to prepare authentically by remembering three great truths of our faith: God has called you just as he called John the Baptist; your example of humility, similar to Johnís, will invite others to consider inviting Christ into their lives; and the beauty of the Incarnation leads us into a joy that stirs us to the depths of our souls.