Today’s Gospel: John 1:19-28
Memorial of Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church
If you had to describe yourself in just three words, what would they be? Or how about if you were simply asked, “Tell me about yourself? Who are you? What do you do?” Would your answer be right there, confident, on your lips? Or would you have to pause…think…dig deep…wonder? Do you know who you really are?
“Do you work?” is a question I am asked a lot. And there was a time in my life when I would shamefully respond, “No. I am just a housewife.” Sometimes, in place of downplaying my vocation, I’d make a joke to hide my insecurity. “Yes I do! 24/7, no lunch break ever, zero sick days or vacation time, and…I don’t even get paid! It’s awesome!” Not a very good testimony of myself.
Today’s Gospel is an especially important one to me, and it should be important to you, too. John the Baptist is showing us how crucial it is that we know who we are and who we are not; where we stand, and who we stand for.
John the Baptist is confronted and asked, “Who are you?” They rush to him, they crowd him, excited and questioning, and they just might be thinking to themselves, “Holy cow! This guy could be the One! He might actually be the Messiah!” Could you imagine? Picture yourself in John’s place. What must that have felt like? To have people all around you, not only demanding to know who you are, but quite possibly thinking you are the One they have been waiting for? The temptation to lie, and to pretend you are quite literally “God’s gift to the world,” is not an impossible reality here. People lie and pretend they are not who they truly are all of the time, especially if who they are pretending to be brings them praise and glory, prestige and power. I mean, honestly, if I were in John’s sandals, the possibility of my yelling out, “Yup! You got me! I am the Messiah! Now go and fetch me a grande iced non fat chai latte and a pumpkin scone!” is not entirely out of the question.
But not John. Not so for our dear, yet odd, bug-eating, desert-living, strange guy. And why is this so? Because John the Baptist knows exactly who he is and who he is not. “He admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, ‘I am not the Messiah’” (Jn 1:20). And when they pressed harder and didn’t let up; when they asked, “‘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 the one crying out in the desert,
Make straight the way of the Lord.”
Wow. Just wow.
John knows that there is one who is coming after him. And he is sure that his purpose and place in the Kingdom of God is to point everyone he meets in the direction of Christ. His humility is almost as shocking as it is refreshing. This seemingly crazy, not-going-with-the-trend, marching-to-the-beat-of-his-own-drum kind of guy, not only gives testimony to himself, but he also gives testimony to Jesus. While so many do not even recognize Jesus among them, John the Baptist does.
When I finally sat down to reflect and write, after having read this Gospel at least a dozen times, I looked at the title of this chapter, and for the first time, saw it: John the Baptist’s Testimony to Himself. We should all make such a testimony.
Who are you? What do you have to say for yourself? What does your testimony to yourself look like?
Jesus, the one whose sandals I am not worthy to untie, thank you for calling out to me through this Gospel. Please help me to know who I am, and who I am not. So often I want the praise and glory for myself. Forgive me, and grant me a humble heart, and a testimony that points only to you.
Saint John the Baptist, pray for us.
We thank our friends at The Word Among Us for providing our gospel reflection team with copies of Abide In My Word 2015: Mass Readings at Your Fingertips. To pray the daily gospels with this wonderful resource, visit The Word Among Us.