The Voice and the Word

John 1: 19-28
1 Jn 2: 22-28 / Psa 98

I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord.”
(John 1:23)

Leave the world, on God alone rely,
From our hard hearts when shall we relent?
Hear the voice of John the Baptist cry:
“Turn from evil ways now and repent!”

This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ He admitted and did not deny it, but confessed, ‘I am not the Messiah.’ And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ Then they said to him, ‘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 out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord” ’, as the prophet Isaiah said. Some Pharisees were also sent. They asked him, ‘Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?’ John answered them, ‘I baptize with water, but there is one among you whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.’ This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing. (John 1: 19-28)

Reflection

Yesterday’s Gospel account was about Mary, the handmaid of the Lord whom God exalted by choosing her to be His Mother. “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isa 7:14). In today’s Gospel, the focus turns to John the Baptist, the herald of the Lord, who was also chosen by God for a special mission: to “make straight the way of the Lord” (Isa 40:3). This prophecy of Isaiah about him gives John the Baptist the distinction of being the only other person aside from Jesus and Mary to be foretold by the great prophet. His role was clearly to proclaim to the first disciples that Jesus was the Messiah. He told Andrew and John, the beloved apostle: “I have seen and testified that He is the Son of God” (Jn 1:34).

Like the Blessed Mother, John the Baptist never allowed self-importance to distract him in his mission. In spite of the attention he was getting from the multitudes, when the priests, Levites and Pharisees asked him about himself, he declared who he was by stating who he was not. He was not the Promised Word of God, but merely the “voice” ‘crying out in the wilderness.’ He pointed to Jesus instead, as “the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” To the Jews, only slaves stooped down to untie their masters’ sandal straps. St. John was saying he was not even worthy to be the slave of our Lord Jesus.

Let us honor St. John the Baptist today by asking him to intercede in our behalf for the grace of God to fortify our resolve to grow closer to our Lord Jesus Christ. May his example of courage and humility be our guiding light in pointing out the “Lamb of God” to others, and spreading His Word as our primary resolution this year of 2009.

Lord God, we pray that at the start of this new year, may all that we have learned from the beginning remain in us throughout the year, so that we may always remain in You and in our Lord Jesus Christ (1Jn.3:24). Grant us the courage and confidence to face the challenges that are sure to come this year. May our faith in Your loving mercy be fortified by them instead. Amen.

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