(A biblical reflection on THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT [Year B], 13 December 2020)
Gospel Reading: John 1:6-8,19-28
First Reading: Isaiah 61:1-2,10-11; Psalms: Luke 1:46-50,53-54; Second Reading: 1Thessalonians 5:15-24
The Scripture Text
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light.
And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, he did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you a prophet?” And he answered, “No.” They said to him then, “Who are you?” Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water; but among you stands One whom you do not know, even He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” This took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.(John 1:6-8,19-28 RSV)
John keeps declaring “I am not” in order to point to the one who can say “I am”. The identity of the one coming after John is unknown, but John is clear in his own mind that he is not the light. John must make way for the light, create a space for the light, create a space for the light to shine through. And when people see the light, his own task is finished.
John the Baptist’s role can be appreciated fully only when the light does come in the person of Jesus. Only then can people realize the true measure of John’s worth and the unique place this enigmatic man has in the Christian tradition. It is interesting to recall that John’s stature among his own people was so great that many of them came to believe that he was the Messiah. Indeed when Jesus comes to ask His own followers who people think He is, the apostles tell Him that some hold Him to be John the Baptist come back to life (Matthew 16:14; Mark 8:28; Luke 9:19). Even in the early Church, some time after the completion of Jesus’ ministry, a sectarian Baptist group still holds on to the belief that John, not Jesus, is the Christ. And that is why the fourth Gospel is so emphatic about John’s role: it stresses that John is a ‘witness’ to the light.
Like John the Baptist, we are asked to make way for the light. None of us is the light: our role is to let the light through the chunks of solid darkness that litter our human landscape. That appears a mountainous task besides which our own abilities and commitment look so small. Who are we to compete against such large darkness?
Advent calls on us to make what contribution we can. To look first at ourselves and work quietly on the darkness that hide s within us – the selfishness, the unforgiveness, and the lack of love that keep the light of good news from so many people. On the larger of a caring community, we are challenged by the Gospel to work ‘together’. Our work may appear fruitless or just odd to those who look at our efforts, but the space we create is significant. Holiness is the constant struggle of letting Christ be the light that shines through everything we do. So let our work puzzle people. Who cares, when the light gets through.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for sending us Jesus Christ, Your only begotten Son, as the fulfilment of all our hopes. Thank You for Your healing and restoration through His death and resurrection. By Your Holy Spirit, You have anointed generation upon generation to bring good news to the world. Through His work in me today, help me give glory to Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.
Jakarta, 12 December 2020
A Christian Pilgrim