Third Sunday of Advent B
December 13, 2020
John 1: 6-8, 19-28
By Rev. John Tran
Several decades ago, a T.V. Show, All in the Family, poked fun at the narrow minded people through the lead character, Archie Bunker. On one show, Archie told his wife Edith that he wanted to be on the bowling team so bad that he could taste it! He described the bowling shirts that the Cannonballers wore: all yellow silk, with bright red piping on the collar and sleeves. And on the back, there’s a picture of a cannon firing a bowling ball at the set of pins. He said, “When you got something like that on your back, Edith, you know you’re somebody!” That show was satirizing the notion that a man could gain a sense of identity and importance from being a part of a bowling team and wearing a gaudy shirt. But that anecdote raises the questions, “Who are you? What is the source of your identity? How should your sense of who you are before God as a Christian shape how you live and what you do?” Our gospel today shows us that John the Baptizer was a man who was clear on who he was not and who he was. He was also clear on who Jesus is. So he was able to point others clearly to Jesus as the only Savior whom they desperately needed.
Today’s Gospel reading from John is again taken up with John the Baptist. But in today's reading we hear more about John the Baptist from John himself, rather than someone telling us about him. So, what do we learn?
First, we learn that John is a person who knows who he is; he knows his place in the scheme of things. We often hear someone saying, “I have to find myself;” maybe at one time or another we have said it ourselves. But not John the Baptist. John knows that he is not following in the footsteps of his father, Zacharia; no, not the Jewish priesthood for John. Rather, he says, “I am a voice crying out in the desert; make straight the way of the Lord, as Isaiah the prophet had said.” John knows who he is: one crying out in the desert get ready for the Lord for he is coming soon. Because John knew who he was, and who he was not, he had true humility. He was real; he was good fertile earth, the root meaning of humility.
So, you would think that John is a prophet. But he says that he is not Elijah, the Prophet, which referred to Isaiah, nor the Christ. John takes no title for himself. He does not pretend to be anyone that people are looking for. You could say that John wants to be invisible. Why? Because he has a job to do, a mission to perform; and he knows that he is not important. He is only an instrument. We are reminded of St. Francis, who prayed, “Make me an instrument of your peace.”
I think we can agree that John the Baptist is the perfect Christian: An Instrument of the Father. But because of the Christ who followed John, whose sandal strap he was not worthy of untie, we are even more that John was during his lifetime. We are made the Father’s children, his sons and daughters, because Jesus, the Christ, made us so. Jesus became incarnate, a human like us, so that we could become part of his very Body. We are his Body right now as we gather in the Mass, as he become present for us in bread and wine. And we carry him out from this church to be the consolation of many.
During his lifetime this is something John the Baptist could not even conceive of. We start out being more than John could hope to be. Who are we? Yes, we are messengers of God, but we are proclaimers of Jesus as his Father’s sons and daughters. We not only proclaim, but we embody Jesus. Do we really know who we are? Why is it that we find it so difficult to be even a modern day John the Baptist? Do you think that we can be this Advent, a new beginning of the Lord’s presence in this world? Lord, make me that Instrument.