1 John 2:22-28
Today’s Gospel passage focuses on St. John the Baptist. It’s odd to have him appear on January 2! We are accustomed to his presence in the midst of Advent, but now? He seems out of place once we have celebrated the birth of Jesus.
Perhaps his presence in today’s reading will prompt reflection on our stance as Christians throughout the year we’ve just begun.
John the Baptist is a unique figure in the Gospels. His sole reason for existence is as prophet of the Messiah; he lives only to point to Christ. Nothing is more important for him than Jesus. He will say "He (Jesus) must increase; I must decrease." (John 3:30) John’s selfless commitment to Christ encourages us to make our own fearless surrender to the power of Jesus’ summons.
John’s commitment to his vocation is total. He will be martyred by King Herod; his courage will cost him his head! The Baptist challenges us to fearless dedication and absolute dedication to Christ and His Gospel.
Social commentators tell us that our age is characterized by a concern for "me". Healthy self-regard is important, necessary and godly. Yet, so much of our concern with self seems, instead, inappropriate, egotistical and relentlessly narcissistic. Our recent financial crises seem rooted in an outrageous attitude of "me first". A self-concern that blinds us to the presence and needs of others is hardly healthy, much less holy.
How refreshing is John the Baptist! He is free, unfettered by the concerns of his ego. His trust in the One beyond himself is complete, total. May his example set the tone for us in 2009. May we live totally for Christ, the True Light of the World proclaimed by the Baptizer.
Fr. Jim Thoman, C.P. is the director of St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat and Conference Center, Detroit, Michigan.