Following Christ like St. John the Baptist

Today is the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. I feel it is important for us to consider him as a patron and intercessor. Some thoughts along this theme came to me while praying the Evening Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours (for today’s Solemnity.).

What do we know of the Baptist from Sacred Scripture that implies he should be a patron (or guide) for us?

His mission was preaching Jesus and announcing His coming. From the Gospel According to Luke 3:4 “…just as it has been written in the book of the sermons of the prophet Isaiah: “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord. Make straight his paths.”

And Luke 3:16-17 “John responded by saying to everyone: “Indeed, I baptize you with water. But there will arrive one stronger than me, the laces of whose shoes I am not worthy to loosen. He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit, and with fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand. And he will purify his threshing floor. And he will gather the wheat into the barn. But the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

He was to offer testimony to the Light, of which he was not; in other words, he was to preach about Jesus, and not himself. For in John 1:6-9 the Evangelist says,There was a man sent by God, whose name was John. He arrived as a witness to offer testimony about the Light, so that all would believe through him. He was not the Light, but he was to offer testimony about the Light. The true Light, which illuminates every man, was coming into this world.”

John 1:19-21 “And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to him, so that they might ask him, “Who are you?” And he confessed it and did not deny it; and what he confessed was: “I am not the Christ.” And they questioned him: “Then what are you? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”

Later we witness the Baptist identifying the Lord and pointing Him out: John 1:29-36; On the next day, John saw Jesus coming toward him, and so he said: “Behold, the Lamb of God. Behold, he who takes away the sin of the world. This is the one about whom I said, ‘After me arrives a man, who has been placed ahead of me, because he existed before me.’ And I did not know him. Yet it is for this reason that I come baptizing with water: so that he may be made manifest in Israel.”

And John offered testimony, saying: “For I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove; and he remained upon him. And I did not know him. But he who sent me to baptize with water said to me: ‘He over whom you will see the Spirit descending and remaining upon him, this is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I saw, and I gave testimony: that this one is the Son of God.”

The next day again, John was standing with two of his disciples. And catching sight of Jesus walking, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”

And later on in John’s Gospel when he recognizes the time has come for his mission to be over so that Jesus can realize what He came to do, in preaching the arrival of the Kingdom of God: John 3-30; “He must increase, while I must decrease.”

So, what can we learn from this? That we can be followers of Christ in the same manner that John the Baptist was:

  • We prepare others (and ourselves) for His coming; whether that is His Second Coming or just continued conversion to become more like Christ.
  • We reflect the light of Christ, meaning we preach His Gospel, and not our own. Too many people, including Bishops, priests and laity preach their own version of the Gospel of Christ. Repent, sinners, for you will learn that your pride of presuming to co-opt His Gospel will be that it may have been better for you not to have been born. 
  • We do it humbly: we are only proposing Christ to others, not forcing them to become Christians. We preach the Good News and let Him take over. We prepare the way. And like I alluded to above, we make certain it is His message, not ours.
  • We point Him out to others. We recognize Christ in those who do His will. Their lives are like the Christ who lives in them. Their message is subordinated to the Gospel; not that the Gospel is perverted to support their message.
  • We acknowledge when the time for our role in the process is done. Whether that means we get out of the way and let the Holy Spirit take over, or we recognize that perhaps our ego is in danger from the success of our work, and we begin to think it is our work, not God’s. I doubt John the Baptist worried about this; from Scripture it is clear that he understood what his job was, and that when Jesus finally arrived, that his role was over. I am just inferring the tendency of a “cult of personality” that develops amongst Catholic (and other Christian) bloggers and personalities. People become followers of them, and only incidentally of Christ.

And so we have how we can be followers of Christ like St. John the Baptist. We be little and humble, we understand who Jesus is and that we are not Him (in the prideful sense) we understand Who is doing the real work so that we do not get puffed up, we preach His Word and not our own slant, and we get out of the way if needed and let Him do the saving of souls.

Scripture passages courtesy Sacred Bible: Catholic Public Domain version.

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