“Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Mt 11:11).
Jesus shared that there has been no greater than John the Baptist. John is a bridge from the Old Covenant to the New. To say that John and Jesus played significant roles in ushering in the Kingdom of heaven is an understatement. For they both preached the same message of repentance, of the need for all to recognize how they had turned away from God and needed to turn back to him. This is a key invitation for us as well during the preparatory seasons of Advent and Lent. May we have the ears to hear!
John lived a life of asceticism giving all to God, rejecting the material comforts of his time, choosing to live in the wilderness, and relying solely on the divine providence of God. He followed in the line of the prophets and he did so with full-throated confidence and fearlessness. Many were moved by his words and came to repent. John though ministered not to put himself on a pedestal, his role was to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah. He was to assist in ushering in the Kingdom of heaven, he himself was not the Kingdom. As John shared, Jesus was to increase and he was to decrease (cf. Jn 3:30). John’s words of speaking truth to power also led to his martyrdom. The death of John signaled the time for Jesus’ public ministry to begin.
Jesus recognized the contribution and place of John in his Father’s plan, yet he also shared how “the least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” The reason Jesus made this claim was that John’s baptism was one of repentance. The Baptism Jesus instituted was one of new life. Through our being baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, we have died with Christ and have risen with him. We have been given a new life and are incorporated into his Mystical Body.
Through our Baptism, we, in participation with Jesus, become priests, prophets, and kings. As a part of the common priesthood, we are to sacrifice our time, giving of ourselves in prayer and worship; our talent, embracing the unique gifts God has given us to share; and our treasure, being good stewards of the blessings God has given.
As prophets, we are to speak the word of God, speak truth to power as John and Jesus did, we are to be the voice of the voiceless and stand for up for the human dignity of all those who are vulnerable or mistreated from the moment of conception, through each stage of life, until natural death.
We are to be servant kings, resisting the temptation to seek our own power, glory, fame, and riches, and instead surrender ourselves to the will of our Father, and like his Son wash the feet of those in need. There is no service of our brothers or sisters that we ought to feel is beneath us in reaching out in love, which is to will the good of each other.
Advent is our time to repent, to recommit, to rediscover the wonderful relationship we are invited to embrace and are called to share: The infinite divine love of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, whose name we have been baptized in. Remember why we dip our finger in the baptismal font before Mass and make the Sign of the Cross. We do so to recommit to our baptismal vows. When we do the same action when we leave, we leave as priests, prophets, and kings to go forth into our realm of influence to love one another as Jesus loves us, with an all-embracing, unconditional love!
Photo: Baptismal font with a statue of John the Baptist, from Mission San Luis Rey de Francia, Oceanside, CA