02Jan 02 January. Wednesday before Epiphany

1st Reading: 1 John 2:22-28

Abiding in the Holy Trinity, towards eternal life

Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; everyone who confesses the Son has the Father also. Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he has promised us, eternal life.

I write these things to you concerning those who would deceive you. As for you, the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and so you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, abide in him.

And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he is revealed we may have confidence and not be put to shame before him at his coming.

Gospel: John 1:19-28

John the Baptist is the voice of one crying out in the desert

This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,'” as the prophet Isaiah said.

Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.


John’s preaching and lifestyle

By preaching repentance and renewal of spirit, John the Baptist prepared the way for the coming of Jesus Christ. In the Greek Orthodox church, John is named the “prodromos” and in the Latin Western church he is “precursor ” (forerunner), describing his unique role in the story of our salvation. To prepare him as a spiritual guide for others, he was drawn by the Holy Spirit to an austere, contemplative lifestyle in the desert of Judea during his early manhood, until he began his mission of preaching and baptising, when he was about thirty years old.

He proved to be a dramatic and effective preacher of spiritual renewal to a people eager for change. With an austerity reminiscent of prophet Elijah, John ate and drank sparsely and dressed in a rough, penitential garb of camel-skin. On the edge of the desert, beside the banks of the river Jordan, he announced the gracious mercy of God to all who came to him in search of repentance. He also warned of divine judgment on any who persisted in their sinful ways. His converts expressed their longing for a change of heart by having John plunge them in the Jordan waters to wash away their sins. John taught them simple ordinary ways to serve God in their daily lives, and proclaimed the imminent coming of the Messiah, who would pour out God’s Spirit more richly upon them.

Many people seeking direction, especially those regarded as marginal Jews (such as tax collectors and prostitutes) received John as the true herald of God, and heard his words as those of a true prophet. To the official leaders of Judaism, the Priests and the Pharisees, the Baptist seemed more a threat than a blessing. Their resistance moral and spiritual renewal closed their minds to the divine guidance latent in his words. Today’s Gospel is a reminder to all, but especially to church leaders, to listen to what the Holy Spirit says through the voices of awkward prophecy.

Who are you, really?

The question put to John the Baptist, “Who are you?” is one of the great questions of life. We can struggle to answer honestly or fully, “Who am I?” It’s easy to reply at a certain level by telling people what we do, “I am an accountant” or “I am a carpenter.” However, going below our job description (what we do) to who we are in inmost our core is much more difficult. And our answer to that deeper question can change as we go through life. How we answer it at this present moment in our lives is not how we would have answered it earlier in our lives.

For people of faith, the answer to that question will be deeply influenced by our relationship with Jesus, because that relationship touches us at a very deep level, at our core. Saint Paul is the great example of that truth. If he were asked, “Who are you?” he might answer in the words of his letter to the Galatians, “it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.” His identity had become a Christ-stamped identity. When John the Baptist was asked that key question, he cals himself a voice that cries in the wilderness. His identity was shaped by his relationship with Jesus. He is the voice who witnesses to the Word, the Word that has become flesh. Our own baptismal calling is to keep on growing into Christ so that our personal identity is more and more shaped by our relationship with him.

02 January: Ss Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen

Basil: Born about 330 at Caesarea (Turkey); died there on 1 January 379. First a hermit, then bishop of his native city. Noted for his pioneering monastic rule, and for writings which developed the doctrines of the incarnation and of the divinity of the Holy Spirit.
Gregory: Born at Nazianzus (Turkey) in 329; died there in 389. Also a hermit before becoming bishop of Constantinople. Known as the “Theologian” because of his wisdom and acumen in maintaining orthodox doctrine against the Arians.