St. John the Baptist should be a model and mentor for how we live as Christians. His life given totally to God and “preparing the way for the Lord”, even though we can be fairly certain he didn’t know exactly how the Day of the Lord was to take place. He didn’t need to, he had faith and surely his faith grew as he committed himself to trust God. Certainly he was given the gifts he used to bring people to a “baptism of repentance”, but unlike each one of us Christians, he did not have the blessing of knowing the whole story – he did not have the big picture that we are blessed to have by being born anno Domini nostri Jesu Christi and having the Holy Tradition and Holy Gospels of the Church. Given that, I think it’s even more remarkable, the faith and trust John had.
“I am not the Messiah” is a key phrase in today’s Gospel account of this piece of John’s life. He is not, yet was indeed empowered by the Lord to prepare everything for the coming of the Messiah more deeply into the hearts of those who wanted to be close to God. We are not the Messiah, nor should we ever think ourselves to be when we utilize our God-given gifts and evangelize in the world today. We most definitely should not shrink or shy away from the gifts, the tools the Lord has given us to “prepare the way” for others to be closer to Christ. One of the greatest tragedies for the Christian faith, is Christians shrinking away or hiding themselves so that others don’t feel “offended” by us. We may believe that we live in a time where we believe that the mention of our faith, that our firm purpose to profess ourselves Christians will offend people – and maybe it will. But all we need to do is open our Bibles, and to look at the Gospels to know that Jesus, and John the Baptist “offended” people too.
We need to radiate the faith that is ours. There is a way to do it, of course. We must radiate love, compassion, joy first. We know all too well that this is not always the case. Although John the Baptist, and even Jesus may be remembered in the Gospel as challenging certain groups by calling them out, “you brood of vipers” if somehow we have it that this was the predominate message, we’ve lost perspective on the Life of Christ altogether. Love, compassion, mercy, joy, love (yes, I did mention love twice) predominated the Gospel message.
I can assure you, that I too am someone who needs to hear these words and to live by them. I can assure you that today I am going to do what I can to be more like John the Baptist (which also means more like Jesus) and prepare the way for the Lord, and remember “I am not the Messiah”, but I am someone by my own Baptism in the Lord who needs to seek to allow Him first to enter more deeply into my own heart, and then seek to be fearless in bringing Him into the world of ours – that so much needs Him. May God bless us all in this!