A Voice in the Wilderness

John 1: 19-28
1 Jn. 2: 22-28 / Psa 98: 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4

Who are you? … What do you have to say for yourself?
(John 1: 22)

To proclaim our Savior Jesus
Is the purpose of our existence;
In this life let us give witness
To the power of God’s presence.

When the Jews sent to John priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” he admitted, and did not deny, and he confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What are you then, Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” They said to him, “Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” Some Pharisees were also sent. And they asked him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them saying, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. It is He who comes after me, whose sandal straps I am not worthy to untie.” These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing (John 1:19-28).


John the Baptist had attracted a significant following by preaching and baptizing in the river Jordan. So much so that this attracted the concern of the temple priests, the Levites and the Pharisees who came to investigate. The people acknowledged him as a prophet, or at least, a holy man. Initially, his purpose was to baptize and preach repentance to the crowds who came, but his primary purpose was to proclaim the coming of the Messiah, “Whose sandal straps I am not worthy to untie.” He knew his calling, as prophesied by Isaiah, to be God’s herald, making the way for Jesus Christ. Although he was aware of his great vocation, (he had no problem about his role in life and identity) he did not make a big fuss about himself, notwithstanding the great attention that he was getting from the crowds and the religious authorities. When asked about his credentials, he simply said, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.'”

We usually begin the new year by reflecting on what had transpired in the past year, and what lies ahead for us to accomplish. On a larger scale, it also behooves us to ponder what our life’s primary purpose might be. I believe mine is simply to proclaim Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Initially, I thought that it was enough to just accept Jesus into my life as my inspiration and ideal. But perhaps today’s Gospel for this very first day of the year serves to remind us to follow the example of St. John the Baptist even in our own little way. We can never be worthy to “untie his sandal straps,” because our salvation is largely through the mercy of God, but we must at least follow in the footsteps of St. John by pointing others to Jesus Christ. Because unless we acknowledge Him, we may well be denying Him. And as John the apostle wrote in his first letter (1st reading), “No one who denies the Son has the Father, but whoever confesses the Son has the Father as well” (1 Jn 2:23).

Father, Your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus has taught us all that we need to know in the Gospel, but at times, being human, we tend to forget our true purpose in life. Let the Holy Spirit keep us focused in our life’s mission always, we humbly pray. Amen.

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