A man came, sent by God.
His name was John.
He came as a witness,
as a witness to speak for the light, so that everyone might believe through him.
He was not the light, only a witness to speak for the light.
This is how John appeared as a witness. When the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ he not only declared, but he declared quite openly, ‘I am not the Christ.’ ‘Well then,’ they asked ‘are you Elijah?’ ‘I am not’ he said. ‘Are you the Prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ So they said to him, ‘Who are you? We must take back an answer to those who sent us. What have you to say about yourself?’ So John said, ‘I am, as Isaiah prophesied: a voice that cries in the wilderness: Make a straight way for the Lord.’
Now these men had been sent by the Pharisees, and they put this further question to him, ‘Why are you baptising if you are not the Christ, and not Elijah, and not the prophet?’ John replied, ‘I baptise with water; but there stands among you – unknown to you – the one who is coming after me; and I am not fit to undo his sandal-strap.’ This happened at Bethany, on the far side of the Jordan, where John was baptising.
Gospel for the 3rd Sunday of Advent
John the Baptist models humility for us.
He also models faithfulness to God’s call to him to serve.
He speaks with simplicity and directness and in contrast to the people sent to question him. They speak wanting to categorise, contain and constrain John in their settled categories. But John refuses and points them to what is for them yet unseen, unknown.
Jesus is beyond what we know yet… But he comes to open our eyes and hearts to the love of the Father.
Detail of reredos in collection of Walker Gallery, Liverpool. Catalan School 15C. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.