Saturday - Christmas Time
1) Opening prayer
God our Father,
through your Son you made us a new creation.
He shared our nature and became one of us;
with his help, may we become more like him,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - John 3,22-30
After this, Jesus went with his disciples into the Judaean countryside and stayed with them there and baptised. John also was baptising at Aenon near Salim, where there was plenty of water, and people were going there and were being baptised. For John had not yet been put in prison.
Now a discussion arose between some of John's disciples and a Jew about purification, so they went to John and said, 'Rabbi, the man who was with you on the far side of the Jordan, the man to whom you bore witness, is baptising now, and everyone is going to him.' John replied: 'No one can have anything except what is given him from heaven. 'You yourselves can bear me out. I said, "I am not the Christ; I am the one who has been sent to go in front of him." 'It is the bridegroom who has the bride; and yet the bridegroom's friend, who stands there and listens to him, is filled with joy at the bridegroom's voice. This is the joy I feel, and it is complete. He must grow greater, I must grow less.
• Both John the Baptist and Jesus indicated a new way to the crowds. But Jesus after having adhered to the movement of John the Baptist, and after having been baptized by him, advanced a step ahead and created his own movement. He baptized the persons in the Jordan River, when John the Baptist was also doing it. Both of them attracted the poor and abandoned people of Palestine, by announcing the Good News of the Kingdom of God.
• Jesus, the new preacher, had a certain advantage over John the Baptist. He baptized more people and attracted more disciples. Thus, a tension arose between the disciples of John and those of Jesus, concerning the “purification”, that is, concerning the value of Baptism. The disciples of John the Baptist experienced a certain envy and went to John to speak to him and informed him about the movement of Jesus.
• The response of John to his disciples is a beautiful response, which reveals his great spirit. John helps his disciples to see things more objectively. And he uses three arguments: a) Nobody receives anything which is not given by God. If Jesus does such beautiful things, it is because he receives them from God (Jn 3, 27). Instead of having envy, the disciples should feel joy. b) John reaffirms once again that he, John, is not the Messiah but only the precursor (Jn 3, 28). c) And at the end he uses a comparison, taken from the wedding feast. At that time, in Palestine, on the day of the wedding, in the house of the bride, the so called “friends of the bridegroom” waited for the arrival of the bridegroom to present him to the bride. In this case, Jesus is the bridegroom, the crowd is the bride. John the friend of the bridegroom. John the Baptist says that, in the voice of Jesus, he recognizes the voice of the bridegroom and can present him to the bride, to the crowds. At this moment, the bridegroom, the people, leave the friend of the bridegroom and follow Jesus, because they recognize in him the voice of their bridegroom!. And for this reason the joy of John is great, “complete joy”. John wants nothing for himself! His mission is to present the bridegroom to the bride! The last sentence summarizes everything: “He must grow greater, I must grow less!” This phrase is also the program for any person who follows Jesus.
• At the end of the first century, in Palestine as well as in Asia Minor, where there were some communities of Jews, there were also people who had been in contact with John the Baptist or who had been baptized by him (Acts 19, 3). Seen from outside, the movement of John the Baptist and that of Jesus were very similar to one another. Both of them announced the coming of the Kingdom (cfr. Mt 3, 1-2; 4, 17). There must have been some confusion between the followers of John and those of Jesus. And because of this, the witness of John about Jesus was very important. The four Gospel are concerned about giving the words of John the Baptist saying that he is not the Messiah. For the Christian communities, the Christian response, the response of John, “He must grow greater and I must grow less” was valid not only for the Disciples of John at the time of Jesus, but also for the disciples of the Batiste or Cambric community of the end of the first century.
4) Personal questions
• “He must grow greater, I must grow less”. This is John’s program. Is this also my program?
• What is important is that the bride finds the bridegroom. We are only spokespersons, nothing more. And, am I this?
5) Concluding prayer
They shall dance in praise of his name,
play to him on tambourines and harp!
For Yahweh loves his people,
he will crown the humble with salvation. (Ps 149,3-4)