“So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease.”(Jn 3:29b-30).
How could John be feeling joy with decrease? This is counter to what many aspire to in our country. Aren’t we supposed to obtain more, be more popular, and not rest on our laurels, if we are to be happy? If our end goal is, fame or honor, wealth, power, and/or pleasure, then yes that would be true. But John is giving us an insight here about what brings us real joy.
Real joy comes from within when we have found our meaning and purpose in life, our mission. John was clear with what his mission was. John came to prepare the way of the Lord. He experienced this from his time when he leapt in the womb when Mary first arrived to see Elizabeth. From that moment, he was preparing the way for Jesus and continued to do so into his adult life. He was not distracted by how many people he was or was not baptizing, but he was focused on preparing people to be ready for the coming of the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world” (Jn 1:29).
John is not threatened by Jesus, he is overjoyed that the time of fulfillment had come. What John had been called to do by God he had been doing. He said with true joy that Jesus must increase because he must decrease because this is the fulfillment of his mission. How many of us get to experience the fruits of our labor?
If we want to be happy, experience joy and be fulfilled in our life, then following the lead of John the Baptist might be a good way. I am not saying that we necessarily need to sell off everything and live in the wilderness. What John did was open his heart and mind to God, and became aware of the relationship that already existed between him and God. By building that relationship he was able to recognize the voice of God and discern the mission that God had for him. He then acted on God’s leading, found confirmation, and became clear of the part he was to play in salvation history.
Each and every one have a specific role to play in God’s plan. There is a specific mission he is inviting us to partake in. We come to understand our mission by slowing down and becoming consciously aware of the relationship God is already developing with us. As we do so we become aware that the Holy Spirit “impels us to open the doors and go forth to proclaim and bear witness to the good news of the Gospel, to communicate the joy of faith, the encounter with Christ. The Holy Spirit is the soul of mission” (Francis 2014, 48).
Let us begin or continue to make time for listening for the voice of Jesus that we hear in the silence of our hearts, discern where we are placing our time and energy, examine how God is inviting us through his creation, our experiences, and relationships. As we step out and risk, following what we believe God the Father wants us to do, he will not only confirm for us, but provide for us the means to accomplish our mission. It is time to awake from our slumber and be about our mission.
Photo: Beginning my mission as a Catholic school teacher, fourteen years ago – my first class, first grade at Rosarian Academy when the joy of mission first began!
Pope Francis. The Church of Mercy: A Vision for the Church. Chicago: Loyola Press, 2014.