The Gospel for January 15th, 2017: “John the Baptist’s Testimony to Jesus”
Reflection: The Prophetic Mission
In today’s gospel John the Baptist is not baptizing. Instead he is testifying as Jesus comes toward him that this man is the Messiah. He says the words, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (29). To speak the truth that Jesus is our savior is to live the prophetic mission of the Church. Despite being named for his actions and his denial to the Levite priests that he is “the Prophet” (John 1: 19-21), he does not hesitate in those moments to simply say Jesus is Lord. I point this out because I often doubt I have charisms, or gifts from God, for prophecy, evangelism, or even sacramental lay service for the Church. I doubt my fitness for such tasks knowing the depth of my sinfulness. I look at John the Baptist and find it hard to relate to one who gave everything to “[m]ake straight the way of the Lord” (John 1: 23).
But today’s gospel focuses on John’s simple testimony to whom Jesus is. In that simplicity I see a way in. I too can say (perhaps even without words) ‘Jesus saves.’ What I find myself thinking is the recognition and acknowledgement of that truth might well be enough to allow the Holy Spirit to empower me to serve the Church using charisms of which I did not think myself capable, whether for prophecy or for another valuable gift that is unique to my calling. Perhaps John was able to act as “the voice of one crying out in the desert” (23) and as the Baptizer because he kept saying the truth, ‘Jesus saves.’
I have met many people in my life of whom I marveled at their energy and ability to act in the service of others. I am grateful for these men and women of action, these movers and shakers. But I have consistently found myself unable to live such a life. In part, this is surely selfishness; however, as I pray I try to discern my personal mission, I also think my gifts are different than theirs. I find that when I scale back my expectations of service; I can do small things. One of those is to say simple truths. ‘Jesus saves.’ Another might be to help and encourage the activists on occasion. John explains, “[T]he reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel” (John 1: 31). This simple rationale reminds me that making the truth of Jesus’s divinity known can lead to great acts of unselfish service like with John the Baptist. Even though both gifts are present in John, it doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit at times can’t delegate these gifts to animate the mission of the Church. Perhaps my small act of saying “Jesus saves” helps the movers and shakers to do what I cannot. Or perhaps in moments of grace I will do far more than I realize now is possible. In either case, today I reflect on John’s witness of Jesus Christ and resolve to speak this same truth at the next opportunity that arises.
‘Jesus saves.’ Amen.