Wednesday, June 24, 2009

He Was Not The Light, But Was Sent to Bear Witness To The Light

The story of John the Baptist begins with an unusual event. Mary, newly pregnant with Jesus, left her home in Nazareth in Galilee to visit her kinswoman Elizabeth, who was in the sixth month of her own pregnancy. When Mary arrived, Elizabeth’s child “leapt for joy” in his mother’s womb, recognizing and rejoicing at the coming of the Savior. Zachary, Elizabeth’s husband and John’s father, is having a difficult time. He had expressed doubt – if not disbelief – that his wife, well beyond the normal age (and himself even older) was with child, and he was literally “dumbstruck”, unable to understand that “nothing is impossible for God”, and that the child yet to be born would have a unique role to place in God’s plan of salvation.

But when the old fellow witnessed the birth of John, he was filled with faith, regained his power of speech, and chanted a magnificent hymn of joy. “Now, Lord, you can dismiss your servant … for my eyes have seen your salvation”. Zachary put an end to the discussion about the child’s name, since the angel had revealed that his name was John, which means “God is gracious”. As soon as he said that word, he regained his power of speech.

All of us begin our lives in the womb, related, connected, nourished by our mothers. After we leave the womb, we strive to learn how to be an independent individual, and at the same time, to remain connected and related to our parents and to the rest of the world in which we live.

At that stage of life, we are unable to speak, much less to pray. We can’t enter into communion with others. We trust those who are responsible for our care and education, in the unspoken hope that they will clear a straight path that leads us to God. We trust, we believe, and eventually, we are able to attest to the truth that “God is gracious”, and that we can be free from doubt, from fear, from self-centeredness.

At the end of his life, John, imprisoned in Herod’s dungeon, sent some of his friends to Jesus with a burning question, “Are you the One who is to come? Or shall we wait for someone else?” John was about to let go of his life in this world; his mission was accomplished. Yet he did not live to see its fulfillment. He had fulfilled his mission, “the rest of the story” was not his to tell. Like his father, John had to trust. Jesus sent John’s friends back to him with a message that must have made his heart leap for joy once more: “Tell John what you see and hear. The blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”

John was the herald of the Lord, proclaiming hope and freedom for the people. Am I a prophet of joy, leading my neighbor to Jesus the Savior? When I feel that I have toiled in vain or exhausted myself for nothing in my service of the Lord, let me recall God’s presence and strength in my life.

Lord, help me to realize that it is only you who can make my words ‘a two-edged sword’ and my deeds ‘a light to the nations'.  I am not the light of the world,  help me to bear witness to the light.

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