FRIENDS and SERVANTS of the WORD
Saturday January 12, 2019
WORD of the DAY
After this, Jesus and his disciples went into the region of Judea, where he spent some time with them baptizing. John was also baptizing in Ennòn near Salim, because there was an abundance of water there, and people came to be baptized, for John had not yet been imprisoned. Now a dispute arose between the disciples of John and a Jew about ceremonial washings. So they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing and everyone is coming to him.” John answered and said, “No one can receive anything except what has been given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said [that] I am not the Messiah, but that I was sent before him. The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens to him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease. (John 3: 22-30)
How shall I live this Word?
The baptism of John and that of Jesus live in a united dance that brings them together in sovereign harmony: “the lamb of God” who offers Himself to the world is the fulfillment of all the previous rites, the last offering before which everything else is a pale foreshadowing. As John recalls the whole secular tradition of Israel, so each of us would be deprived of our own genetic heritage if we were to deny our past and its traditions. We cannot evade the first level of our approach to faith: it is in our humanity – and not in spite of it – that the Lord loves us! We must be willing to meet Him within our own personal history, and the familiarity with God cannot be resolved into a disembodied spiritualism allied with angelic virtues. John, the last prophet and emblem of every prophet, knows how to step aside and recognize the point of arrival of every prophecy, experience, and makes us experience that the fulfillment of every conversion is the joy of being in the presence of the Bridegroom. The difference between him and Jesus is the same as that between waiting and meeting. Through John and his word “earthly things, instead of becoming idols, refer to the heavenly things” (St. Fausti). The parallel coexistence of the two economies – one short because the Baptist is about to be thrown into prison – is interpreted as unfair competition by those who cannot detach themselves from the ritualism of “purification”, but John dampens the bitterness of the intolerant disciples. In him the joy of the first love, or the exultation of the first encounter with Jesus still in the womb (Lk 1:41), remains alive and actual.
A heart inhabited by God lives in perpetual joy because of the presence of the beloved. Rivalries and disagreements with others, perhaps for “religious” reasons, risk polluting this beauty. I immunize myself against these viruses by asking the Lord for a heart capable of loving everyone, to take on the other’s point of view, to understand how even for my enemy there is a plan of salvation, and that his life is visited by Him.
The Voice of Etty Hillesum
They can make life a little unpleasant, they can deprive us of some material goods or some freedom of movement, but we ourselves are depriving ourselves of our best strengths with our wrong attitude: with our feeling persecuted, humiliated, and oppressed, with our hatred and our bragging that masks fear.
Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, Via dell’Ateneo Salesiano 81, 00139 Rome, Italy
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Comment by Fr. Enrico Emili