Friday, December 21, 2018
“I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul. For he has clothed me with a robe of salvation and wrapped me in a mantle of justice...” We call this prayer the “Magnificat” almost always used in reference to Mary. But this prayer can also be applied to John the Baptist. John was certainly a man singularly blessed by God to be the precursor of the messianic age. He was God’s mouthpiece announcing the dawn of a new age. His was the message of repentance, forgiveness and justice. The Spirit of the Lord was upon him because God anointed him to send glad tidings to the prisoners under the bondage of sin, to announce the year of favor from God. Interestingly enough, this was the passage used by Jesus for his own credentials when John, from prison, asked Jesus: “Are you the one who is to come or do we wait for another?” This same message was played out by two different personalities. One with a loud voice in the desert and an unyielding reed standing by the banks of the Jordan. Another with the power of love and service, a lamb who opened not his mouth, a bruised reed.
John knew his role in the salvation drama of Israel. He himself acknowledged that he is only the voice in the desert announcing the coming of the Lord. He is fully aware of the words of the prophet Isaiah. What struck me the most with him was his deep self-knowledge and his being fully rooted in the truth about himself. The questions (more like proposals) that were addressed to him were unhesitatingly answered with what he knew to be the truth. “I am not Elijah or the prophet or the Messiah. No, I am only a voice... Someone mightier is coming after me.... I am not worthy to untie his sandals....”
Only in our knowledge of the truth can we truly deliver the message of God. Only in knowing ourselves can we fully serve God without the danger of losing our souls. The “proposals” we can encounter in the service of God can become a wine that intoxicates us. We can easily forget that the message is more important than the messenger. We can easily forget that we are not the Elijah’s, or God forbid we have the illusion that we are the Messiah, of our world with subtle agendas. We are only voices in the deserts of this world, witnessing to the reality that there is One, more powerful and more important who will accomplish the impossible which we cannot do ourselves. John was important in the plan of God, and so are we, but only to the extent that we remain in the vine, rooted in the truth of who we truly are on the chess board.
John the Baptist never witnessed the fullness of God’s revelation. He never saw the fullness of God’s intent to save his people. He never witnessed the victory of the Resurrection. And yet, God needed him to prepare the way of this ultimate victory. We may never witness the ultimate victory in our fight for justice. We may never reap the harvest of our labors but God needs us to proclaim the Good News of His Son. We may never see the end to abortion, euthanasia, social injustice, poverty and sufferings in this world. But we should be firm in our faith and hope that One who is mightier will come and will make justice and praise spring up before all the nations.
I believe that only if we truly make this our conviction that we can rejoice always and pray without ceasing as St. Paul exhorts us to do in the second reading. I believe that if we can seek out the good from the bad can we retain what is good. Only then is it possible to be thankful in all circumstances. Only then can we be found blameless until the coming of the Lord. For as St. Paul says, God is faithful and He will accomplish His plan present since the foundation of the world.