Memorial of Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen,
Bishops and Doctors of the Church
1 Jn 2:22-28
Psalm 98:1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4
Today’s readings put before us the identity of two Great men: Jesus and John the Baptist. John the Baptist bridges the Old and New Testaments. He was the last of the Old Testament Prophets who pointed the way to the Messiah. He was also the first of the New Testament witnesses and martyrs. In today’s Gospel, the Jews wanted to know who John really was with regard to all what he was doing. So, at the question “who are you”, John presented himself as a simple voice that cries in the wilderness. He was not afraid or ashamed to carry out the mission entrusted to him by God which is to prepare the way of His Son Jesus Christ. Today more than ever, there is an ongoing identity war which has left many of us confused. It is commonplace to find Christians who feel more at home in the bars, the clubs, the betting houses, rather than in the House of God.
For many Christians, it is an embarrassment to pray in public. By and large, we are not proud of who we are as Christians. Before the challenges of modernism which threaten our Christian sensitivity, John stands as a beacon of authenticity. It was enough for John to say that he is one of the prophets, or Elijah or Christ and he would have all the people of Israel including the leaders at his feet and he would have received all the honours and privileges. Instead, he used that opportunity to introduce Jesus. I am just a voice, he said, I baptize with water but the Saviour is in your midst; He is standing among you and He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit; what humility! what selflessness!
John’s significance does not consist in his mission to baptize but rather, in his witnessing to Jesus. John the Baptist knew that the only way he could serve God and fulfil his mission in life was to direct all the glory to God and none to himself, never presuming to be more than he was. We, too, can live as true Christians and make Jesus present to others only if we put aside our own pride and vanity.
Towards the end of the Gospel text, there was a reference to the location where all these events took place – Bethany. This indicates and helps us to understand that the ministry of John was to prepare people for a definitive re-entry into and repossession of the Promised Land; armed with righteousness and power, a sign of a new beginning with Christ.
Let us pray All-powerful Father, you sent Your son Jesus Christ to bring the new light of salvation to the world. May He enlighten us throughout this new year 2021.