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John the Baptist
Author: Brian Flanagan
December 14, 2018
3rd Sunday of Advent
Sometimes I read too quickly.
Today as I was about to look over the readings before writing this, I got a few texts and emails all at once and got a bit distracted. So when I finally started reading the Gospel, my eyes saw something about crowds in the first sentence and then jumped to the 2ndsentence which starts “He said to them in reply, ‘Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none’.” And then it goes on, with advice on how to live a holy life to various groups of people like tax collectors and soldiers. I found myself reflecting on each of those things, and then I read on to the next paragraph.
“Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ.” John? As in, John the Baptist? I thought this was Jesus talking. <Brian scrolls back up to the top of the page and rereads first sentence>. Ah, “The crowds asked John the Baptist…”
I just assumed this was Jesus speaking, no unlike those in the crowds who were listening to John preach. They had been waiting for the Messiah to come with a great longing in their hearts, and thought that finally John might be the one they’d been waiting for. John is quick to redirect the attention away from himself to Jesus who was still to come on the scene.
My little mix-up reminded me of a quote from a book by Matthew Kelly. He poses the question to us, “When’s the last time someone mistook you for Jesus?” If a day in my life were written down, and someone started reading a sentence or two in, and missed my name but read about the things I did and said that day, would they assume they were reading about Jesus? Depends on the day for me. Probably for all of us. But something to keep in mind. St. Paul writes that “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” We should be living out our life in such a way as to “be Christ” to everyone around us. The word Christian even means “little Christ”. So that’s part one; we should be easy to mistake for Jesus, just like John the Baptist in the Gospel here.
And then part two; just like John, we should be quick to point to Jesus living within us. If we’re a great listener and always willing to lend a hand to friends in need, if we’re always serving the poor and living out the works of mercy, we might find people chalking that up to Brian just being a great guy (true? false? I don’t know, ask my wife). But if we leave out the reason why we do the things we do when living out our faith, that’s only giving people part of the picture. We should want people to look at us and to think, “Wow, what a faith-filled person. She must be really close to God, you can see it in everything she does.”
So this Advent Season, think about John the Baptist and reflect on those things, which he made his whole life about. When’s the last time someone mistook you for Jesus; and when they did, did you point them in the right direction? Don’t prepare the way of <insert your name here>, prepare the way of the Lord!
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