Reflecting Christ’s Light

3rd Sunday of Advent-Year B

GOSPEL: Jn 1:6-8, 19-28

A MAN named John was sent from God.
He came for testimony, to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light, but came to testify to the light.

And this is the testimony of John.
When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to him to ask him, “Who are you?” He admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, “I am not the Christ.”

So they asked him,
“What are you then? Are you Elijah?”
And he said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?”
He answered, “No.”

So they said to him, “Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?”

He said: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord,’” as Isaiah the prophet said.”

Some Pharisees were also sent.  They asked him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”

This happened in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

Readings: Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24


LAST week we were introduced to the figure of John the Baptist as an emissary; a herald sent in advance to prepare the way of the Lord. His appearance signals the initial proclamation of God’s work of redemption and marks as a stepping stone toward the Christian faith. Indeed, Mark painted John as the true representative, a true ambassador; one who constantly directs his listeners’ attention to the true object of their HOPE, which is Jesus the Son of God and our saviour.

witnessWe again encounter the figure of John the Baptist in our gospel according to John. This time, not as a herald but as a witness. Now, we are used to the word WITNESS being associated with the law court where a witness stands up, gives his testimony and speaks the truth. In the legal setting, a person who testifies before the court needs to establish his or her identity—or credibility. Failure to establish identity or credibility means any testimony given will be inadmissible.

In our gospel reading, John the Baptist faced the same scrutiny. People—especially the religious authorities of his time—seem to refuse to accept his message unless he establishes his identity. We can make two interpretations as to the reason behind the people’s questioning of John’s identity and his message. One is that they are trying to put John into their category of a prophet or even the Messiah and that they would not accept anything from him if he does not fit such categories. Or, since the Pharisees, like most of Jews of this period, were waiting for the Messiah, the attractiveness of John’s message of repentance made them wonder and compelled them to discern his authenticity as a messenger of God.

StJohnTheBaptistBearingWitnessIt is interesting that the gospel that repeatedly has Christ say ‘I am’, emphasises with the Baptist ‘I am not’: ‘He was not the light’ says the prologue (Jn 1:8); ‘I am not the Christ’ (Jn 1:20) says John himself, before going on to say he is not Elijah (Jn 1:21) and he is not the Prophet (Jn 1:21). Christ is; the Baptist is not. John was sure about his identity as God’s messenger. And by refusing to make himself the centre of attention makes him an authentic witness of the faith.

We are also being called to be witnesses like John the Baptist. To stand up and say what we know to be the truth about God and about Jesus. Furthermore we are invited to imitate John who was the greatest of the prophets, yet he lived as a humble and faithful servant of God. He pointed others to Jesus the Messiah, by the witness of his life.

The gospel is clear in identifying that John was not the light but the one who came to testify to the light. So, like John we should also be careful not to be tempted “to shine our own light” but always pointing others to the TRUE LIGHT that is Christ. Our mission is to testify to the LIGHT. Yes, as Pope Francis said, sometimes the Lord can ask each one of us—as member of his Church—to shine our own light. But this means that if the Church’s mission is to illuminate humanity, the light we give to the world must be the light that we received from Christ. Just like the moon which does not have any light of its own to give but reflects the light of the sun, we too must reflect the light of Christ.

Again, as Pope Francis said, “Service without this light [from God] is no good: it makes the Church rich, or powerful, or makes the Church seek power, or take the wrong road, as has happened many times in history. The same thing happens in our lives when we want to shine our own light. We make ourselves the centre of attention, our service a spectacle and a public show. We become angry if being ignored or side-lined; resentful in accepting criticisms, and ultimately lose that sense of joy that the gospel gives us; the joy that faith gives us and the joy of serving others.

So our challenge is to be witnesses of Christ by reflecting Christ’s light; that true light, which is the source of our joy. As we start another week of waiting in anticipation of the coming of our Lord in Christmas, let us become witnesses of that light. As we go about our daily activities let us ask ourselves: How can we reveal God’s presence to the lives of the people we meet? And when people meet us, are they seeing Christ’s light?

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