Sunday, January 1, 2017

"I AM THE VOICE . . . "

Homily for January 2nd, 2017: John 1:19-28.

          The preaching of John the Baptist, accompanied by mass baptisms, created a sensation. Great numbers went out into the desert, where John lived, to hear him and to be baptized by him. (Cf. Matt. 3:5) The Jewish Scriptures, which we call the Old Testament, speak in several places of the Lord taking away sins by the pouring of water. It is understandable, therefore, that the religious authorities in Jerusalem send messengers to John to ask what is going on, and what is his authority.         

          John’s response to their questions is simple: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’” These words hark back to a passage in the prophet Isaiah: “A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be laid low.” (Is. 40:3f)  Isaiah’s words were directed to his people in exile in Babylon. The angels, Isaiah told his people, were preparing a way for them to return from captivity to their homeland in Palestine.

“Like a modern bulldozer, the angels were to level hills and fill in valleys, and thus prepare a superhighway. John the Baptist is to prepare a road, not for God’s people to return to the promised land [as in Isaiah’s day], but for God to come to his people. John’s baptizing and preaching in the desert was opening up people’s hearts, leveling their pride, filling their emptiness, and thus preparing them for God’s intervention.” (Cited from Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel according to John, p.50)

John, as we saw before Christmas, was a voice for the one who is the Word: God’s personal communication to us, to show us, who cannot see God, what God is like. John’s message is still preparing people’s hearts and minds to encounter God’s Son and Word. He does so in what were perhaps the greatest of the Baptist’s words: “He must increase. I must decrease.” (John 3:30) Take those words with you into the year that is just one day old today. Let them be your guide during the remaining 364 days of this year of 2017. They will keep you close to the One who alone can make this a truly happy year for you. “He must increase. I must decrease.”