By Mgr Anthony Abela
The Light of the World John 1:6-8, 19-28 6 God sent his messenger, a man named John, 7 who came to tell people about the light, so that all should hear the message and believe.
8 He himself was not the light; he came to tell about the light.
19 The Jewish authorities in Jerusalem sent some priests and Levites to John, to ask him: “Who are you?” 20 John did not refuse to answer, but spoke out openly and clearly, saying: “I am not the Messiah.” 21 “Who are you, then?” they asked.
“Are you Elijah?” “No, I am not,” John answered. “Are you the Prophet?” they asked. “No,” he replied.
22 “Then tell us who you are,” they said. “We have to take an answer back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 John answered by quoting the Prophet Isaiah: “I am ‘the voice of someone shouting in the desert: Make a straight path for the Lord to travel!’” 24 The messengers, who had been sent by the Pharisees, 25 then asked John: “If you are not the Messiah nor Elijah nor the Prophet, why do you baptise?” 26 John answered: “I baptise with water, but among you stands the one you do not know.
27 He is coming after me, but I am not good enough even to untie his sandals.” 28 All this happened in Bethany on the east side of the River Jordan, where John was baptising.
Other readings: Is 61:1-2, 10-11; Lk 1:4650, 53-54; 1 Thes 5:16-24 LECTIO This week we look at the beginning of the Gospel of John. Verses 6-8, which introduce John the Baptist, are actually a short note inserted into the Prologue (Jn 1:1-18). This is a hymn about Jesus seen as the Word (logos).
John the Baptist is described as a “messenger” of God sent “to tell people about the light so that all should hear the message and believe”. The Gospel writer makes it clear that John is not the light. Jesus is the light.
In verses 19-28 we hear of an encounter between John and some messengers from the Pharisees, Jewish religious authorities. It would appear that rumours had been circulating that John was the Prophet Elijah or even the Messiah. So the Pharisees dispatched some priests and Levites to find out who John really was and why he was baptising people.
John answers clearly that he is none of these people. He quotes from a prophecy in Isaiah 40:3 to explain his role which is to prepare the way for the Lord. John himself is preaching in the desert. So he too is “a voice” shouting in the desert just as Isaiah describes.
Yet while John makes it clear he is not the Messiah he makes the very intriguing comment in verses 2627 “among you stands the one you do not know... but I am not good enough even to untie his sandals”. Nothing further is recorded at this point and the narrative moves on. We are not told what the messengers reported back to the Pharisees.
MEDITATIO Jesus is described as being “the Light”. In our noisy, over busy world consider how Jesus can be “the Light” for people today.
John the Baptist was sent by God to “tell about” Jesus. The Greek word for “tell about” is “witnessing”, so John was a witness. How necessary is witnessing in our modern world? What can you say or do to witness to Jesus?
ORATIO Mary’s song of praise rings out at the very heart of our reading (Lk 1:46-55). Try making her song your own joyful prayer, pausing at the end of each verse for your own moment of thanksgiving.
CONTEMPLATIO “Among you stands the one you do not know.” Contemplate this phrase for a minute or two. Ask God to speak to you about it. You may feel prompted to pray for specific people, or yourself, that you may know Jesus more deeply.
In today’s Old Testament reading from Isaiah 61:1-2 we have the wonderful proclamation about the Messiah being filled with the Spirit of God and bringing good news and freedom. Who does he sound like to you?
Paul counsels us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 on how to be good disciples. Applying these principles will help us be better witnesses to Jesus.
Lectio divina, or “spiritual reading”, is an ancient tradition of reading and engaging with God’s Word. These outlines for the Sunday Gospel readings are written by Mgr Anthony Abela and published by the Bible Society. They can be downloaded for free in several languages from Biblesociety.org.uk/lectio. Bible Society is a charity that works towards a day when the Bible’s lifechanging message is shaping lives and communities everywhere. We aim to show how the Bible connects with life, we make scriptures available where there are none, and we work with the Church to help it live out the Bible’s message.
© 2008 United Bible Societies. Bible text Good News Translation, second edition © 1992 American Bible Society, New York. Used with permission.