Jesus’ Testimony to John
OTHER HOMILY SOURCES:
Each of us has interesting and memorable story to tell and we are not tired of telling and sharing them with others. It could be stories about the lives of people whom we love and admire; stories of experiences that have changed and inspired us; and stories of places and events that have lasting effects in our lives.
In some way, this probably how we feel about Jesus in relation to the dramatic life-story of John the Baptist. John’s story simply refuses to die in the lips of Jesus. He continually speaks about him. Last Sunday (Year A), the gospel reading was about the ministry of John in the desert. In today’s gospel we find Jesus speaking about John again; he paid tribute to John before the crowds – something he rarely does. In fact, this will not be the last. Later, Jesus will be talking about John again to recall his arrest and martyrdom.
What is so important about John that Jesus likes to talk about?
It is true that John was Jesus’ cousin, a God-messenger sent ahead to prepare and announce Jesus’ coming, a prophet equal to the great prophets of the OT, a holy man worthy to be perceived as another “awaited savior” by others and a martyr who died for his conviction and for God. Are these enough reasons for Jesus to praise him as “nobody greater than him”? Indeed, no one can doubt that John was such a unique and a rare person to Jesus.
But there is also one thing that John missed. He missed to see the fullness of Jesus’ love for us as he revealed on the Cross. In this way, we are more fortunate than John. We have seen the greatest story of love ever told and revealed to us. Much more, we are personally invited by Jesus to “come after him and follow him.” (Fr. Gerry Donato, SVD Bible Diary 2004)
St. John the Baptist is one of the major figures in the season of Advent. He is the prophet who announced the coming of the Messiah. Many heard his calls for repentance and renewal of life. But only few “listened” and concretized his message in their daily lives. Indeed, “if anyone has ears to hear, let him listen.” This verse which seems to be paradoxical differentiates hearing and listening. Hearing remains in the level of sensation. Like hearing noise, birds singing or cars passing by. But listening has a deeper character. It means perception and response. More than the ears, we need the heart to listen.
The German word for hearing is “hören” which is the root word of the word “gehören” which means to belong! From this word comes the word “gehörchen” which means to follow. In order to hear, we have to “belong” solely to the speaker in total presence and concentration. Then we can be good listeners and only then can we act and follow what is demanded of us.
Are you only hearing or are you already listening? (Fr. Adonis Narcelles, Jr. SVD Bible Diary 2006)
John the Baptist is truly an Advent figure. He gives us a sometimes uncomfortable reminder that Christmas is much more than a time to make and spend money. Christmas has nothing to do with material gain; it is a challenge to renewal and repentance.
We are struck by the tremendous tribute which Jesus pays to John. There has been nobody greater than he. But this praise is followed by the startling phrase that, “the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he”. What can this mean? It is something I have often wondered about.
It is William Barclay who gives the best explanation that I have seen. He tells us that what was lacking in John was that he had never seen the Cross. This being the case, Barclay tells us that the full depth of God’s love was something that John could never experience or know. And so even the humblest Christian who has experienced the Cross of Jesus is blessed to be able to know God’s love more deeply than the great John the Baptist. This is indeed an unmerited gift of God to us.
Note however, that Jesus does not say that we are necessarily better than John. Yes we may be more blessed than he was but that will be more blessed than he was but that will be of little benefit to us if we do not appreciate the love that God has shown us. John had a role to play in God’s plan for our salvation and he fulfilled it heroically. His was the task to prepare our hearts to meet Jesus and to show us the way to a relationship with God which he would never experience in his lifetime. Ours is the calling to follow Jesus through the way of the Cross in order to give witness to his love for all people.
How blessed indeed are we to be called to follow Jesus! May this be the light that shines on us as we welcome him into our lives this Christmas. (Fr. John O’Mahony, SVD Bible Diary 2007)
Life is much easier when somebody is at your side to help you. Last December, I went to Kalinga for the first time to visit the families of SVD postulants living there. Since that was my first visit I was quite apprehensive. The original plan was that I would just be given direction and I would travel alone. But I was very glad I was finally accompanied by one of our postulants. He spared of the unnecessary anxiety and fear of the unknown. I enjoyed watching the beautiful sceneries because he was there at my side. He helped me a lot in my journey.
In the season of Advent there is somebody who is more than willing to help us in our journey. He is no other than John the Baptist. He is showing us the way and the necessary preparations that we need to do. We don’t need to keep on guessing what to do. The preparation he is laying before us consists of repentance or the conversion of heart. Jesus in the gospel is exalting john the Baptist because he is faithful and committed to His mission in life. He is indeed true to his purpose.
Jesus is surely coming into our lives. As we thank John the Baptist for his help let us also help others in their preparation. Who knows God is also using us ion this season of Advent to help others in their preparation. Let us become St. John the Baptists to one another. (Fr. Gerry Paat, SVD Bible Diary 2008)
Jesus is full of praises for John. He calls him greater than any person born so far. What strikes me especially in John the Baptist is his humility- something that must have impressed Jesus profoundly. John could have said he is the Messiah, but he claims to be not worthy to undo that sandal straps of the One to come. His success with the crowds never went to his head. He just prepared for the One to come: “He must increase, I must decrease.” And when He saw Jesus he pointed at Him saying: “Behold, the Lamb of God,” and let his loyal disciples follow Jesus, no grudges, no bitter feelings. John just feels the joy of having served God and prepared the people for the imminent future.
John was a man who called for action. It was not enough for him when people confess their sins, utter some pious prayers, and have themselves baptized. He wants them to practice charity; to share food and clothes; to be honest, just, and incorruptible – exactly what Jesus later would demand from us.
I am sure John the Baptist would have again a difficult time today. He would be a curiosity for a while and then put aside as irrelevant. He would fail because he demands too much and does not entertain, as some priests do to attract fans, forgetting that neither Mass nor homily is supposed to be entertainment.
Whether we like it or not, not only in these days before Christmas but also in the future, John the Baptist continues to speak to us. As long as we have the New Testament we cannot avoid listening to John. And if we listen to him and if we try to put his firm at times severe preaching into practice, we are prepared, not just to welcome Sweet Baby Jesus in a few days, but accept the adult Jesus who urges us more than once that the hallmark of a genuine follower of his is charity, love of neighbor and faith acted out in daily life. (Fr. Rudy Horst, SVD Bible Diary 2009)
Thursday, December 10, 2015
THURSDAY OF THE 2ND WEEK OF ADVENT (YEAR C) – MATEO 11:11-15. UNSA MAY ATONG BUHATON TALIWALA SA MGA DAOTAN NING KALIBOTAN? Matag karon ug unya, masinati nato ang mga mangil-ad nga tawo ug panghitabo sa katilingban. Usahay makasilingan kita og mga laog ug tsismosa. Usahay mahimo kitang biktima sa pagpanikas ug inhustisya. Adunay kamatuoran ang giingon sa ebanghelyo: “Sukad pa sa mga adlaw ni Juan Magbubunyag hangtod karon, ang gingharian sa langit nahiagom sa kapintas, ug ang mga mapintas nangusog sa pag-ilog niini.” Isip mga sumusunod ni Kristo, gidasig kita nga magpuyo nga malinawon, matarong ug madasigon taliwala sa inadlaw-adlaw nga mga hagit, kalisod ug tintasyon. Dili kita angay’ng mawad-ag paglaum, o kaha magmasuk-anon. Matod pa sa usa ka Chinese Proverb: “Instead of cursing the darkness, better light a candle.” Posted by Abet Uy
Thursday, December 10, 2015
Reflection for December 10, Thursday of the Second Week of Advent: Matthew 11:11-15
Reflection: What are you going to do if you see that something is wrong in your family or in the community where you belong? You are going to create order and make things right.
John the Baptist did this when he called for the people to repent for the kingdom of God is at hand (Matthew 3:2). John saw firsthand the sinfulness of the people of his time. Thus he called for repentance, renewal and order.
John also gave his life for the sake of morality when he criticized King Herod for coveting Herodias the wife of his brother Philip (Matthew 14:1-12). The sinfulness of humanity was creating damage in the kingdom of God.
Someone has to take the cudgels for God and it is John the Baptist. He is the messenger sent by God to create order and bring once again righteousness. John courageously faced the powers that be during his time even at the cost of his life.
As we live our lives we may be witness to immorality, corruption and the countless evils of our society. Let us not think twice to denounce it, to speak out for what is moral and right. Even if will bring us trouble, if temporal trouble would be the result for speaking out for what is right and moral, so be it.
Evil pervades in this world because we choose to bow and kowtow to the scheming of evil people . We choose to be cowed instead of being courageous. To defeat evil we therefore have to make a stand and speak out whatever it may cost us. – Marino J. Dasmarinas
TO THE ONE WHO CALLED – In one of the retreats that I attended as a seminarian, we were asked to name a couple of persons who made a great impact in our lives that led us to embrace our chosen vocation. I remember mentioning, apart from my parents, a priest — our youth director in the parish where I became an active youth leader; my kindergarten teacher — the SPC nun who really loved me like a real son as she disciplined and guided me; and my spinster aunt who always brought me to church on Sundays and to whatever occasion that she believed we needed to be present.
What was common in all these significant persons in my life is the fact that they all led me to the One who called me to become a priest. They have been instrumental in my choice to take this road that is less traveled.
So, what made John the Baptist great, so great that Jesus Himself made an unprecedented compliment to “any man born of a woman”? Probably it was because of his role in the life of Jesus. He led the people to Him and made them prepare themselves to meet Him.
I am greatly thankful for the many John the Baptists in my life — those who have brought me to the Lord and continue to do so. There are so many people in my parish who still do that. And I am just filled with so much gratitude knowing that even in my stature now as an ordained minister I am still being led to Jesus by the many John the Baptists that the Lord sends my way.Fr. Sandy Enhaynes
REFLECTION QUESTIONS: Who served as John the Baptist in your life? Are you the same to others now?
St. John the Baptist, pray for me. Help me to bring people to Jesus.
Is 41: 13-20; Mt 11: 11-15
Mathew in this passage presents Jesus as the expected Messiah, the one concerning whom all the prophets and the law prophesied until John came. From the legend that Elijah had been taken alive into heaven in a fiery chariot it was thought that God would be sending him back to herald the Messiah. Referring to this, Jesus declares that it is John the Baptist who is the fulfilment of their expectation.
Jesus speaks of the forceful advance of the kingdom, conquering evil in all its forms: physical, psychic, and moral, reaching beyond the grave to eternal life. In Jesus’ ministry, God is breaking through beyond all expectations including the imaginations of the people and the teaching of their scribes who appeared to be without authority.
The Kingdom is advancing and with it the power of God. But it demands a corresponding determination of those who would take hold of the redemption offered to them. We will need all the courage like that of John the Baptist and all the prophets who suffered violence. They violently preached and lived to establish the kingdom daring to expose the truth in relationships and suffered themselves greatly for their honesty and bravery. They point to the wrongs and flawed relationships that we try to cover up to enroll us into the kingdom. They challenge and disturb our comfortable and convenient ways of living and doing things that ignore justice and compassion for the poor. They call for true peace and reconciliation when we simply want to have tolerance to maintain the status quo.
However, today’s Gospel is emphatic that we can belong to the kingdom only by taking it over with force. It is done through repentance and leaving whatever we must leave to follow Jesus; we have to take up our cross given us and to walk through the way laid down for each and every one of us by God; we must be prepared even to spend our lives at the altars of our life situations and even to lose our lives; and we must endure to the end. But we are not alone in our venture. We can put all trust in our Redeemer who is coming grasping us by the hand, telling us not to fear as described by prophet Isaiah.
Dr. Fr. John Ollukaran CMI
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