The Humility of John the Baptist
Homily given by Dcn. Bill Bach to the Passionist Oblates
John’s disciples were fussing, maybe fuming, that this Jew from across the Jordan was attracting more people to himself, than John, and John was the one who started these purifications or baptisms of repentance.
So let’s get an historical perspective on this rivalry coming from John’s disciples. Let us back up and re-examine that John was sent to bring the word of God to the people. For so many years the Jews had been under the heal of the Romans, and before that under the Greeks. Many had abandoned their Judaism, but some recognized their infidelity to God and they knew they somehow had to repent for their fallen natures. John came upon the scene and provided them with a baptism of repentance. And we have the scenes of crowds being baptized in the Jordan River. In John 3:26 the people are telling John, “Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing and everyone is coming to him.” And what did John tell them? (John 3:27-30) “No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said that I am not the Christ, but that I was sent before him.” And John goes further. “You yourselves can testify that I said that I am not the Christ, but that I was sent before him. The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease.”
There is so much embedded in John’s account, and it needs to be heard and understood. He makes it as clear as possible, that he is not the Messiah, not the Christ. They were looking for a prophet, but he is the voice preparing the way for the Lord. And who is Lord? He is Jesus!
And John, felt no reason to be Jesus’ rival. In fact, John said that standing and listening to Jesus gave him reason to rejoice. “So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease.” (John 3:29-30).
The complaining disciples of John, remind us how easy it is to come to conclusions about someone and to feel jealousy when we think the other one is getting something that we might deserve. So beautifully, John the Baptist speaks to his own humility. He knew and accepted his lot in life was not to be all in all, a famous person who would bring goodness, happiness, freedom and maybe riches at least to himself, and others too. John was making the way for Christ and his joy was complete. John was the best man, Jesus was the groom and the Church, his mystical body born from his side, would be his bride.
John’s words must get to the heart of the matter. He said, “No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven.” This is true for all of creation. All of creation shows forth the splendor of God’s plan. A small caterpillar after a period of being hidden in the earth, comes forth to explore, eat and live in the shadowy, musky clumps of its natural world. Then a stirring begins and it feels a call to climb higher, to venture forth up branches and into the trees. There is a time of quiet, of waiting for a call from within leading to a transformation and becoming a butterfly. This call is for each of us, to follow the will of God. If we keep ourselves humble before God, and seek to do his will, He will provide all that we need. Knowing this, we can go through life in love and peace.