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January 2, 2019 Featured

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book PNG2112Gospel: John 1:19-28
This was the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites to ask him, Who are you?” John recognized the truth, and did not deny it. He said, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “Then who are you? Elijah?” He answered, “I am not.” They said, “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Tell us who you are, so that we can give some answer to those who sent us. How do you see yourself?” And John said, quoting the prophet Isaiah, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord!” Those who had been sent were Pharisees; and they put a further question to John, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are not the Messiah, or Elijah, or the Prophet?”John answered, “I baptize you with water, but among you stands one whom you do not know; although he comes after me, I am not worthy to untie the strap of his sandal.”

“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness.”
Asked to identify himself, John the Baptist first answers by saying who he is not: he is not Elijah, nor is the Prophet (both expected forerunners of the Messiah), nor the Messiah him­self. Then who is he? His answer is elusive. Invoking a line from Isaiah, he calls himself “the voice of one crying out in the wilder­ness: Make straight the way of the Lord!” In other words, asked to say who he is, he identifies himself in terms of his relation to Another. It is unclear at this point  if John himself knew the identity of the one he was awaiting, the one whose sandal strap he was unworthy to tie. What is impor­tant is John’s recognition that he does not proclaim himself. The message of his life is more like a question, to which Another will provide the answer. Is this not the  life of every Christian? It is impossible to name the identity of a Christian except by reference to the One we follow. Unworthy as we may be, we are called to clear a path for Him in our families, our com­munities, our places of work, and our moment in history.

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