1) Opening prayer
You sent Your son Jesus Christ
to bring the new light of salvation to the world.
May He enlighten us with His radiance,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - John 1:19-28
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.
• Today’s Gospel speaks about the witness of John the Baptist. The Jews sent “priests and Levites” to question him. In the same way, some years later, they sent people to control the activity of Jesus (Mk 3:22). There is a resemblance between the response of the people regarding Jesus and the questions which authorities address to John. Jesus asks the disciples: Whom do people say that I am?” They answered: “Elijah, John the Baptist, Jeremiah, one of the Prophets” (cf. Mk 8:27-28). The authorities address the same questions to Jesus: Are You the Messiah, or Elijah, the Prophet?” John responds by quoting the prophet Isaiah: “I am a voice of one who cries in the desert: Prepare a way for the Lord”. The other three Gospels contain the same affirmation concerning John: he is not the Messiah, but he has come to prepare the coming of the Messiah (cf. Mk 1:3; Mt 3:3; Lk 3:4). The four Gospels give great attention to the activity and the witness of John the Baptist. Why do they insist so much in saying that John is not the Messiah?
• John the Baptist was put to death by Herod around the year 30. But up to the end of the first century, the time when the Fourth Gospel was written, John continued to be considered a leader among the Jews. After his death, the memory of John continued to have a strong influence in the living out of the faith of the people. He was considered a prophet (Mk 11:32). He was the first great prophet who appeared after centuries without prophets. Many considered him the Messiah. In the year 50 Paul passed through Ephesus, in Asia Minor, and found a group of people who had been baptized with the baptism of John (cf. Acts 19:1-4). Because of this, it was important to spread the witness of John the Baptist himself, saying that he was not the Messiah, and instead proclaim Jesus as the Messiah. John himself contributed to radiate better the Good News of Jesus.
• “How is it that you baptize if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet? The John's response is another affirmation in which he shows that Jesus is the Messiah: “ I baptize with water, but standing among you, unknown to you, is one who is coming after me; and I am not fit to undo the strap of His sandal”. Further ahead (Jn 1:33) John refers to the prophecies which announced the coming of the Spirit in the Messianic times: “The one on whom you will see the Spirit descend and rest upon Him, is the one who is to baptize with the Holy Spirit” (cf. Is 11:1-9; Ez 36:25-27; Joel 3:1-2).
4) Personal questions
• Have you had someone like John the Baptist who has prepared the way for you to receive Jesus?
• John was humble. He did not try to make himself greater than what he was in announcing Jesus. Have you been that way for someone in your life?
5) Concluding prayer
The whole wide world
has seen the saving power of our God.
Acclaim Yahweh, all the earth,
burst into shouts of joy! (Ps 98:3-4)