Two days ago I visited a religious house in the City. In order to get into their car-park and the house, there is a boom-barrier (boom-gate). So, I pressed the intercom for help, and a person greeted me, ‘Good Morning, how can I help you?’ I replied, ‘I am here to meet ‘so and so’. The person who I can’t see replied ‘Oh, Jude Johnson, the newly ordained’. And I said, ‘it is me’ and I was curious to know to whom I was talking. So, I asked, ‘who are you?’
In the gospel we hear that Priests and Levites asked two questions of John the Baptist. The first one is, ‘who are you?’
This question touches on the identity of oneself, and John answered it in relationship with Christ. He said I am “a voice that cries in the wilderness to make a straight way for the Lord!” John is the voice (the witness) in order to speak of the light, Jesus Christ. John is not the light, but only a ‘witness for the light’.
This ‘who are you?’ or ‘who am I?’ should be our question too. ‘Who am I?’ for this Christmas and beyond? Am I someone who bears witness to the light, Jesus Christ. Leading up to Christmas, our living faith (our Christian identity) must illuminate the darkness for others so that others will also realise the birth of Christ and the call of God.
The second question the Priests and Levites put to John is related to his first answer of not being Christ. So, they asked: “why are you baptising if you are not the Christ, and not Elijah, and not the prophet?” In other words, “why are you doing what you are doing now?”.
John answers that his baptism is the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. His baptism is the symbolic action of Baptism with the Holy Spirit that must come from ‘the one who is coming after me’. This one is standing among us, but we do not know him. John challenges these people who are unaware of the presence of Jesus among them and who will baptise with the Holy Spirit for new life.
Leading up to Christmas as we get busier and busier, each individual should ask the same question: ‘why am I doing what I am doing now? Where is the Lord in my Preparation for Christmas? Am I seeing Christ, who is standing among us, during my Christmas preparation?’ Perhaps we can be so caught up in what we are doing and forget that Jesus is the revelation of God and the centre of all, not only at Christmas, but also of our whole lives.
Perhaps this is a good time to ask ourselves the same two questions: ‘who am I?’ and ‘why am I doing what I am doing now?’
Both questions are in fact hard to answer as they depend on accurate self-knowledge. Answering these questions is a life-long task and also a worthwhile task for all of us.
In a little while, we are going to enter into the Eucharistic narrative and we should ask the same questions: who are we? We are the Eucharistic people who freely come here to offer our lives to be in union with Jesus. Why are we doing what we are doing now? We do this because we want to associate our identity and our actions with the saving work of Christ so that we will become more like Christ as we eat and drink his Body and Blood.
Therefore, this Eucharistic Celebration on this third Sunday of Advent reminds us that John the Baptist’s role is similar to ours. As John makes straight the way for the Lord, we are called, by our baptismal identity, to bear witness to the Light by our words and deeds. This is our apostolic and evangelisation responsibility. And we should ask ourselves once again if Christ is the centre of ‘why I am doing what I am doing now’.
Fr Jude Johnson