12 January, 2013. Saturday after Epiphany
1 Jn 5:14-21. Different sorts of sin, some of which is venial, less deadly to the spirit.
Jn 3:22-30. John the Baptist defers to Jesus as the best man does towards the bridegroom.
First Reading. 1 Jn 5:14-21
Beloved: We have this confidence in him
that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask,
we know that what we have asked him for is ours.
If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly,
he should pray to God and he will give him life.
This is only for those whose sin is not deadly.
There is such a thing as deadly sin,
about which I do not say that you should pray.
All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly.
We know that anyone begotten by God does not sin;
but the one begotten by God he protects,
and the Evil One cannot touch him.
We know that we belong to God,
and the whole world is under the power of the Evil One.
We also know that the Son of God has come
and has given us discernment to know the one who is true.
And we are in the one who is true,
in his Son Jesus Christ.
He is the true God and eternal life.
Children, be on your guard against idols.
Gospel: John 3:22-30
Jesus and his disciples went into the region of Judea, where he spent some time with them baptizing. John was also baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was an abundance of water there, and people came to be baptized, for John had not yet been imprisoned.
Now a dispute arose between the disciples of John and a Jew about ceremonial washings. So they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing and everyone is coming to him.” John answered and said, “No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said that I am not the Christ, but that I was sent before him. The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease.”
“He must increase.” Authentic Deference
The fourth Evangelist sums up in two rich phrases the attitude of John the Baptist towards Jesus: “He must increase; I must decrease.” This is the spirit required by his God-given role as “prodromos” or “forerunner” to the Messiah – it is one of authentic deference, of knowing his place in the order of things. Not for him the all-too-common human desire to hold on to the limelight, to cling to power and prestige until forced to renounce them by death or defeat.
John the Evangelist credits his namesake, the Baptist, with a great spirit of honesty. While many were prepared to revere the Baptist and even regard him as the awaited Messiah, he stubbornly refused to claim such an honour for himself. His role was to be the signpost pointing to Jesus, the Voice in the Desert preparing the way of the Lord. He was to Christ as the best-man is to the bridegroom, the essential auxiliary, the reliable, supportive friend. And for this he has always been greatly esteemed by Christians everywhere. In our roll of honour he is rightly listed directly after the Blessed Mary ever-virgin and before even the Blessed Apostles, Peter and Paul.
One could say that John the Baptist provides us all with a vivid and challenging role-model: how to become somehow a forerunner for Jesus in our own lives. Each of us is meant to help others to find the way of the Lord, worship him and savour the special gift he has brought to our lives. Like the Baptist and the many Christian saints who came after him, we can and should make Jesus the centre of our ambition: “He must increase; I must decrease.”