6 A man came, sent by God. His name was John. 7 He came as a witness, as a witness to speak for the light, so that everyone might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, only a witness to speak for the light. 19 This is how John appeared as a witness. When the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ 20 he not only declared, but he declared quite openly, ‘I am not the Christ.’ 21 ‘Well then,’ they asked, ‘are you Elijah?’ ‘I am not’ he said. ‘Are you the Prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ 22 So they said to him, ‘Who are you? We must take back an answer to those who sent us. What have you to say about yourself?’ 23 So John said, ‘I am, as Isaiah prophesied: a voice that cries in the wilderness: Make a straight way for the Lord. 24 Now these men had been sent by the Pharisees, 25 and they put this further question to him, ‘Why are you baptising if you are not the Christ, and not Elijah, and not the Prophet?’ 26 John replied, ‘I baptise with water; but there stands among you — unknown to you — 27 the one who is coming after me; and I am not fit to undo his sandal-strap.’ 28 This happened at Bethany, on the far side of the Jordan, where John was baptising.
REFLECTION, By Fr Aldo, sx
I would like to underline two ideas – perhaps two words – presented in today’s Gospel. The first is that John “came to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.” And the second is that John described himself as “the voice of the one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord’.” The two important words are “light” and “voice.”
Light – We all know what it means to walk in the darkness of the night. Imagine a walk at night in a forest: one can be bitten by a snake or be hurt by thorns. Only when the sun rises one can walk fast and safe. An even better image is that of an electric power black-out, when it lasts for more than a day it is really distressful. But when the energy is back, it is really like having new life. The coming of Jesus into the world is like such sunrise, it is the arrival of the light. In fact Jesus says of himself: “I have come into the world as light” [Jn 12:46].
The first one who recognized the presence of the light was John the Baptist. Why he and not others had such intuition? Because he, differently from the spiritual leaders of Israel, was attentive to the Word of God and to the signs of the times. His heart was not hardened by vices, his eyes were not blind by worldly passions, his ears were not spoiled by vulgar conversations.
Have you noticed how many deceiving lights often succeed in seducing people? How many deceiving ways of life are presented to us all the time? So much so that we are often confuse. It seems that we never know the authentic and real value of the realities we touch. Do we know the real value of the goods of this world? Do we know the real value of success? Do we know the real value of sexuality? Do we know the real value of family, study, leisure, friendship, commitment, poverty, etc.?
The day will come when light will be shed upon us and all these things will become clear. On that day we will know which of our choices were wise and which were not. Now, through the Gospel of today, John the Baptist is telling us that such light is already here. He gives witness and points to the light, and that light is Jesus Christ. Those who open their hearts to the Light are not afraid of surprises; they are not deceived by anything else; they will never regret their choices. Like the Baptist, they also become witness to the Light.
Voice – A group of people go to John to ask who is he. For three times they ask the same question: “Who are you?” Since they were all waiting for the Messiah, they rightfully feel the need to verify the identity of this person who preaches with much enthusiasm. Indeed there were so many opinions about him.
But John is very honest and does not allow himself to be deceived by any of the false opinions about him, no matter how attractive they would be. He does not accept honors and titles that do not belong to him and affirms clearly that he is not the Christ, neither Elias nor the Prophet. He defines himself as a voice in the wilderness.
What is a voice? It is a series of sounds that are used to transmit a message. What happens to the voice after the message is conveyed? Nothing! It disappears. Only the message remains. This is John! He gives witness and points to Jesus, the Light; once his mission is accomplished, fearing that people might be more interested in him than in the Light, he disappears. “He must increase and I must decrease” says he in Jn 3:30.
How can we know Jesus Christ? We come to know the Light only through someone who talks about him, witnessing, like did John the Baptist. Faith – says St. Paul – is not born out of one’s reasoning or private revelation, but out of listening the voice of someone who has met Christ before [Rom 10:14-17].
Question: Have you really met Christ before? If not, it is surely about time to do so. If yes, are you, then, a voice that announces him to others? Your entire being is already a voice; but, what kind of voice?