Grace to you!
A recent conversation with a person I have come to love and cherish for his wisdom and spiritual depth, reveals a journey to spiritual maturity. “As we grow in the Lord,” he said, “we gradually begin to take the back seat. All things begin to point more and more to the Lord.”
There is much more to this simple reality of the spiritual life. In the life of John the Baptist, whom the Lord says is the greatest of all born of a woman (Mt 11:11), there is no better example of this self-awareness and taking the back seat.
John was by any means a renowned prophet. If he were to live in our time, his presence and words would win blockbusters and be on viral charts of social media popularity. The Gospel of Mark describes his large followership: “There went out to him all the country of Judea, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins” (Mk 1:5).
John the Baptist’s impact and fame were extraordinary. He was simply among the most famous of his time. There was no doubt he was a prophet of the first-class order. People wanted to crown him the king. They praised his piety and prophetic charism. Many were curious, wondering if he was the expected messiah.
Consider what this could’ve been for John the Baptist if he wasn’t a man of humble spirit. When one is living in stardom or influence—such as wealth or power—there is the high temptation to forget we are human. There is the risk of basking in the euphoria of praise and ignoring where and to whom the praise actually belongs.
We want praise. We want validation. We want recognition. It’s good for self-image, for confidence and sense of personal worth. Yet in it is the subtle pride of the ego, which forgets that, afterall, we are not perfect. And more, we don’t have absolute claim to who we are and who we’ve become.
Life is a gift. Otherwise, one could’ve planned out from eternity when to be born; who would be one’s parents; and which race and nationality one would be. No one is born in his or her own terms. Try as we may, we are born and our birth isn’t our making. It is a gift. So are all the blessings following our birth until death.
I love John the Baptist because he teaches me how not to take the glory that doesn’t belong to me. He teaches me how to see my life and vocation in the light of he who has gifted me for his glory. “It is to bear witness to the light—Christ” (Jn 1:6). All glory belongs to God, the giver of heavenly gifts. Our vocation as believers is to bear witness and not to become the center of the witness or be the ones whose gospels are preached.
We bear witness to Christ. We point to him and not to us. The Book of Psalms says it in another way; “Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to your name be the glory” (Ps 115:1). It’s all to Jesus.
Advent is a time to reflect on this great ministry of pointing to the one who is to come. We do so like John the Baptist. To do so is joy. To do so is our vocation as Church, and members of the Church—bearing witness to Christ who is born to us and in us. The one who is joy to the world and light of the nations.
We rejoice for this privilege of being witnesses. We “rejoice always” (I Thes 5:16). It’s no surprise that three weeks into the time of expectation and the coming celebration of the birth of the Lord, the Church tells us the great news--Gaudete—Rejoice!
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Second Sunday of Advent B: Is 61:1-2a, 10-11; I Thes 5:16-24; Jn 1:6-8, 19-28]
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations this Advent Season.