This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”
He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’” as the prophet Isaiah said. Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
Sometimes we think that if we work hard enough, we can solve every problem and fix every issue. Even if we don’t believe this, often enough we act as though we do. We try to help our spouse, family members, and friends, assuming that if they listen to our advice or follow our example, everything will be fine. In other words, we act as though we are Christ, the Messiah, the one who brings salvation to all.
In the Gospel, John the Baptist gives us a wonderful reminder, “I am not the Messiah.” I cannot save others from all their problems, nor can I even save myself. So, how is this good news?
Like John the Baptist, we are not Christ. Yet, like John, we can use our words and our actions to bear witness to the love of Christ. We can proclaim God-with-us by sharing our love and life with others, by working for justice in a world plagued with injustice, and by doing all that we can do and letting go of what only God can do.
During this Christmas season, we remember and celebrate that Christ has come into the world and dwells among us. Our role is to bear witness to this great love which comes not from ourselves but from God.
—Thomas Bambrick, S.J., is a Jesuit scholastic in First Studies, studying philosophy at Fordham University, New York.
Lord, whenever we cross the line between being caring and assuming responsibility for those who refuse to be accountable, we fail to emulate John the Baptist. He knew who he was, and who he was not. There is only one Messiah though at times we assume that “messianic” role with family and friends. Give us the grace to lean on you when those we love falter in their responsibility. Guide us to know when to hold on and when to let go. And grant us the resolve to encourage the other’s best by not enabling harmful behavior.
—The Jesuit Prayer TeamPlease share the Good Word with your friends!