09 January 2010

The School of the Baptist

As we read in today's Gospel about John's ministry of baptizing and look ahead to the account of Jesus' own baptism tomorrow, one must wonder how the saintly precursor of our Lord might have felt about baptizing the Messiah. St. John the Baptist, as we heard today, understood well his role of preparing the way of the Lord. His famous imperative, "He must increase; I must decrease" tells volumes about how the Lord's cousin understood his role.

Yet when Jesus arrives to be baptized it is only in Matthew's Gospel that we read a hesitation: "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" What is so significant is what follows this question. Jesus answers him that this is how it needs to be to "fulfill all righteousness" and his cousin consents to baptize him. Immediately following the baptism of the Lord, the heavens open and a voice is heard, identifying Jesus as the Son of the Almighty God. John's consent to perform an act of which he deemed himself unworthy led to a manifestation from God. How many countless onlookers and bystanders, believers and skeptics, Sadducees and Pharisees were strengthened in their faith because of the manner in which God manifested himself after Our Lord's baptism.

Sometimes we may be hesitant to do something which is asked of us. Perhaps we are asked to be the godmother or godfather of a friend's child; maybe we've been asked to visit some of our homebound parishioners and pray with them. Whatever it is we are challenged to grow into, we might profit from being a disciple of St. John the Baptist. For if we believe that He must increase and we must decrease then we, like the Baptist, will consent to what the Lord asks of us and we will trust that our consent has the potential to lead many others to Christ. If we follow his holy cousin, he will lead us -- and those with whom we interact -- to the Lord.

"We must go to the school of the glorious St. John the Baptist and place ourselves ... among his disciples. For do you not see that this great saint sent his disciples to the Savior to be instructed by Him personally ... and our Savior kept them. If the glorious precursor receives us, he will surely place us in the hands of our Savior, who will in turn place us in the hands of the Eternal Father."
St. Francis de Sales

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