Last Sunday, we heard Saint John the Baptist proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, calling upon people to live the faith in word and deed, to prepare the way of the Lord (Mark 1:1-8). This Sunday, we read in the Gospel of Saint John the Evangelist (1:6-8, 19-28) that Saint John the Baptist came to witness and testify to the Light, Jesus Christ, so that all might come to believe through Him. Saint John was not the Light, but testified to the Light, calling upon all people to make straight the way of the Lord. Later in the Gospel, Saint John even says of Jesus Christ: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
In today’s culture, it seems that we live in a world obsessed with being number one. At stadiums and arenas across the country, sports fans and athletes can often be heard chanting, “We’re number one,” regardless of their team’s actual ranking (I’ve never heard anyone chant, “We’re number two,” even if their team is second). Oftentimes, it seems that the champion is the only one who matters. The second-place finisher (no matter how valiant or deserving their play) is routinely relegated to obscurity, while the winner (no matter how unbecoming his or her conduct) is honored and remembered. The competition to be number one, therefore, can get rather intense. And since there can only be one true champion, there is a tendency for a great number of impostors falsely to lay claim to the title of being number one.
How easy it would have therefore been for Saint John to have claimed the title of number one when he was asked if he were the Messiah. All John the Baptist had to say was “yes sir, that’s me, the messiah.” Instead, he made a point of relegating himself to at least number two, of going so far as to say that he didn’t even deserve to untie the Champion’s sandal strap. Surely John understood the risk of not being number one. He must have realized that he was inviting the crowds to forget him. In his humility, John teaches us that there is only one True Champion, and that by making Jesus Christ “number one” in our life, we will never be forgotten or lost.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, help us to have the wisdom of Saint John the Baptist so that we may willingly and joyfully proclaim and give witness to You by our words and deeds. Help us to live the faith that You have given us, to stay close to You in prayer, in Your Church, Word and Sacraments, especially Confession and Holy Communion, mindful of Your communion of saints. Help us, dear Jesus, to humbly follow You wherever You lead us each day, all the way to Life Eternal in Heaven. Amen.
With peace and prayers in Christ,
PS: This third Sunday of Advent is also known as “Gaudete Sunday” because the first word of the Entrance Antiphon (introit) for Mass is Gaudete, which is Latin for “rejoice.” The antiphon is “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.” We also read about rejoicing in the readings at Mass (Isaiah 61:1-2,10-11; the Responsorial Psalm, based on Mary’s Magnificat, Luke 1; and 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24). We rejoice because Christmas, the birthday of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is just a little more than one week away!