Gospel – John 1:29-34

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’ I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.” John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon him.
I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”

Reflection on the Gospel

Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.

Once a shabbily dressed woman came to the door of Casa Maria Catholic Worker house asking for food. The community member answered the door and told the woman that they did not have food at this time. She looked at the young man and said “You, with breath smelling of peanut butter, dare tell me that you have no food? The young worker was put on the spot. She told the truth, and the truth sometimes hurts. He regretted his denying the woman food.

John the Baptist was like this woman. He was pointing out the failures of the Jewish people and
asked them to repent and turn away from their evil, selfish ways. If people would have seen John today in shabby clothing living in the dessert and eating locusts and honey, they probably would say he is mentally ill or talking out of his head. But this was not the case. Prophets like John sometimes did peculiar things and lived unlike the rest of the people because they wanted to gain the attention of the people so the people would listen to them rather than ignore them.

What was John the Baptist’s mission? John was known to be the cousin of Christ. He wanted people to know that his cousin, Christ, is special. He is holy and should be listened to by all. St. Mark tells us that John’s mission was to preach “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mk 1:4) That would have been shocking to the religious Jews of the day. The only time baptism was used was when a Gentile became a Jew. And then the proselyte would “baptize himself and all his family.” But here we read that John the Baptist baptized them as if they were “Gentile dogs” – to use a first century Jewish expression. John was advocating that all people should be paying attention to Christ and His message of love for all. John baptized with water, but Christ will baptize with the Holy Spirit.

Many Christians like to think themselves to be good Christians but fail the test of being Christian. When we were baptized, we took an oath to God that we would follow Christ, obey His message of love for all, friends and enemies, always forgive and do good to those who do harm to us and others. Are we obedient to Christ? Instead of forgiving and showing love to all do we instead refuse to forgive and would rather kill our enemies? Do we pay for war? To fight in a war aiming to kill or maim others is not Christian behavior, is not living up to the baptismal promises. We Christians need to try and prevent war by refusing to fight and giving money for war. We Christians need to do good to all, both friends and enemies. Think how Christ would want us to act. He would not spend money to build weapons and send our young to war. He would advocate that our resources should be used to improve the lives of all people. Right now, the U.S. is spending close to a trillion dollars on our military and violent action in multiple places around the world. At the same time, people in Zimbabwe and Zambia do not have food due to the years of drought.

What would be the Christian response? We would use the money meant for war to help those struggling to survive. We would send our young with supplies to help the billions of impoverished people throughout the world, not to kill off people, too often for the sake of oil or economic gain. We Christians need to point out Christ and His message, like John the Baptist did, by obeying the message of Christ before the whole world. Like John and Christ’s message, our message may fall on deaf ears and blind eyes, but we Christians do not forsake the message and refuse to follow Christ’s command because we are afraid of the consequences. We follow Christ’s message because we vowed to do so at Baptism.

Don Timmerman
Casa Maria Catholic Worker Community

Saint John Baptist de La Salle – Pray for us.
Live, Jesus, in our hearts – Forever