John the Baptist’s Testimony to Himself
‘Who are you? How do you see yourself?’ These are questions we ask one another even up to this day. But today we ask these questions especially of ourselves and turn the searchlight inwards: ‘Who am I? How do I see myself?’ In our complex world these are not trivial questions. There are many who are willing to offer us ready-made identities. Some of these identities are intensely tight-fitting. Many look at us and don’t want to know who we are; they see only the identity they would like to impose on us. But we had a better knowledge where to find our real identities.
In today’s gospel, some priests and Levites came to John the Baptist and asked him: “Who are you.” This question is asked, not out of curiosity I’m sure, but full of suspicion. It is because the Baptist is the most remarkable character. He dressed like Isaiah, lean, tough, bold and has a deep sense of his mission combined with an ample measure of fierce honesty and resoluteness. He was a son of a priest, Zechariah, but he has nothing to do with the Temple. Many people came to him to listen to his words and teachings. You know gathering of people at that time was dangerous especially that Israel was under Roman oppression and domination and this could easily lead to rebellion and Roman government crackdown of rebels.
St. John knew his identity by showing his humility. He said that he was a prophet sent by God. He could have said also that he was the Messiah especially that during his time there were several false messiahs. But because he was humble, he did not call himself as the Messiah but a simple messenger who prepares the way of the Lord.
What happen to us is that we brag about ourselves. Many times, in order to boast ourselves, we put ourselves in relation to some popular personalities like: politicians, great doctors, priest and bishops and so on. But this is not we. The more we identify ourselves with known people, the more our real beings remain not known. What is needed is humility. It is because humility is an essential attitude for success in the spiritual life. Any self-conceit is an obstacle on the path of humility. Genuine humility is not posturing. It requires a constant willingness to deny oneself and to be open to God’s guidance even when it differs from one’s own preconceived concepts.
Humility requires sincerity and honesty like a little child whose natural spontaneity and acceptance of life is the antithesis of the complicated personality of the adult with its many masks, hidden resentments and prejudices. The paradox is that a humble person wins more respect from others than the person who is proud and powerful. The humble person does not regard his possessions or accomplishments as his own but as a gift of God to whom our thanks is due all.
At the end allow me to borrow these words from Bhagavad Gita (13.7-8) of Hinduism about humility: “Be humble, be harmless, have no pretension, be upright, forbearing; serve your teacher in true obedience, keeping the mind and body in cleanness, tranquil, steadfast, master of ego…”