10 January 2009

The Humility of John

In today's Gospel we hear something of the humility of St. John the Baptist, a humility we are invited to imitate. Not only does he reiterate for his disciples that he is not the Christ, but he speaks of the joy in being the bridegroom's friend, a joy that is complete even as John decreases and Christ increases. In a way, there is something about John's humility which goes against the grain of our human instincts. We are not accustomed to finding joy in situations where we "decrease" and another person "increases."

John's role as the "bridegrooms friend" brought him great joy because it brought him to honesty about his own role. John knew that he was not the Christ. He knew that he was the forerunner. There were no illusions of grandeur about John's role in Salvation history. And his joy was a joy that was born in truth. When we do not claim to be anyone other than who we are, we are poised to receive the Lord's gift of joy -- the joy that belongs to those who, in humility, accept their gifts and limitations. We may not be as smart, as attractive, as tall, as charming, etc., as we would like to be, but when we feign something that is not honest, we forfeit our chance to receive this joy.

"Oh, how far was St. John's spirit from that of our times! . . . We, on the other hand, are extremely receptive to the honors that are extended to us! Our human nature is anxious to attract whatever is to its advantage . . . . Our self love is such that it draws to itself all the glory that in any way belongs to it but also that which in no way belongs to it. . . . We act quite differently from the glorious St. John, who is not content simply to reject what does not belong to him; he even refuses what he could justly have accepted."
St. Francis de Sales

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