“A man named John was sent from God …”
Today, in this reading from the Gospel of John, we hear the priests and Levites come to John the Baptist with the question, “Who are you?” This is the same question asked of Jesus in John 8:25 and again in John 21:1. The difference is that Jesus answered, “I AM.”
We will hear John the Baptist answer “I am not!” – not once but three times. John says: “I am not the Messiah”; “I am not Elijah”; and when his questioners say “Are you the Prophet” John again says “No!”
John’s answer relieves his questioners’ fears about three ways he might be a threat to their authority, but they still do not understand. In their frustration they ask, “Who are you, so that we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?” This is a key question for each of us to reflect upon this Advent.
We start with the words, “A man named John was sent from God.” John the Baptist is telling us who he is and why he was sent. “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’” John identifies himself as the voice referred to in Isaiah 40:3. John understands his life’s purpose is to be the Voice!
From the time he leapt in his mother’s womb upon meeting Jesus (who was in his Mother’s womb), John has been growing in self-understanding: who he is and why God is sending him. Now John says he is the Voice that heralds the good news of salvation. John clarifies this and point again to Jesus. “There stands one among you, the one coming after me whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie – and you do not know him.”
The last line in the Reading is, “This happened in Bethany across the Jordan”. This seems a strange way for the Evangelist John to end the story, but it happens that there were two Bethanys: one near Jerusalem and one “across the Jordan”, and the name Bethany means, “the best place of crossing over.” John the Evangelist is giving further insight to why the Baptizer was sent. We must ask ourselves, “What is the significance of this Gospel passage for our own lives?”
How do you answer the question, “Who are you?”
When you reflect on this passage, take out John’s name and insert your own name: “There was a person named _________ sent by God.” To be a disciple means that, like John, you receive a call. You may never respond to that call; but if your response is like John’s, you will grow in awareness of the purpose of your call. You will increasingly understand that you have received from Jesus the invitation to be part of his Mission. It is his Mission which he hands over and entrusts to you.
Like John, we all are being sent, called beyond our name: called, commissioned, and sent to be who we truly are, with no masks, no pretenses. Like John, we are a Voice making straight the way of the Lord. Let us, like John, be open to “the Spirit of the Lord which is upon us.”
May we grow in our awareness of who we are, what our purpose is, and why are we being called and sent.
Let us pray and ask ourselves, “What kind of a voice was I today?”
Blessings on your Advent Journey.