Gospel Reading: 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.
DO NOT QUENCH THE SPIRIT!
John the Baptist appears in the wilderness, roaring like a lion, calling for repentance, revealing the sins and crimes hidden behind the pious facades of the religious leaders and the people of Israel. He is so disturbing that a delegation from the Jewish authorities comes all the way from Jerusalem to interview this strange man and find out who he is. But John does not volunteer and give a clear answer. He quotes the great prophet Isaiah and says that he is only preparing the way for one greater who will come after him and will baptize with the Holy Spirit (cf Mt 3:11).
John has disturbed the authorities as well as the simple people and – even though today is Gaudete Sunday, the Sunday of Rejoicing – we should allow ourselves to be disturbed because we, too, easily forget in these hectic days of feasting, shopping, and malling what this season is about.
Why this disturbance, all this excitement and rejoicing, even in today’s liturgy?
While we look forward to Christmas, the liturgy invites us to look back to the One who comes after John, whose sandal straps he feels unworthy to untie; to the One who baptizes us with the Holy Spirit, the cause of real joy.
Isaiah rejoices “heartily in the Lord” because he feels that “the spirit of the Lord God is upon” him (vv 10, 1). In the Second Reading, filled with God’s Spirit, Paul exclaims, “Rejoice always!” (v 16). In the Responsorial Psalm, Mary sings, “My soul rejoices in my God.”
Baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit, we Christians are called to “rejoice always.” But you may object: Life is difficult, filled with problems, sufferings, and worries – how can I rejoice always? But look at Paul: surely you have not suffered as much as he did. Yet, he is filled with joy.
It all depends on whether we put our trust and hope in God, as Mary and Paul did. Even in difficult times and severe storms, we can “rejoice always” because we can find true joy and happiness in God.
Paul exhorts us, “Do not quench the Spirit” (v 19). Instead of focusing on the One whom the Baptizer announces to come after him, the One who fills us in baptism with the Holy Spirit, we may be too concerned about the problems of daily life. As a result, we quench the joy-giving Spirit in us, the Spirit that offers a joy that the world, the malls, and the season’s parties cannot give.
Unhappiness results from a lack of God. And God, Christ, has unfortunately been pushed little by little out of Christmas. What a difference there is between saying “Happy Holidays” and wishing “Merry Christmas.” Even a pagan celebrates happy holidays, but how beautiful and joy-filled it is to have Christ at the center of a Merry Christmas.
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SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord,” ST PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: [email protected]; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.