Lectio Divina for the Third Sunday of Advent 12/13/20
By David Kilby
Read JN 1:6-8, 19-28
A man named John was sent from God.
He came for testimony, to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light,
but came to testify to the light.
And this is the testimony of John.
When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests
and Levites to him
to ask him, “Who are you?”
He admitted and did not deny it,
but admitted, “I am not the Christ.”
So they asked him,
“What are you then? Are you Elijah?”
And he said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?”
He answered, “No.”
So they said to him,
“Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us?
What do you have to say for yourself?”
“I am the voice of one crying out in the desert,
‘make straight the way of the Lord,’”
as Isaiah the prophet said.”
Some Pharisees were also sent.
They asked him,
“Why then do you baptize
if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?”
John answered them,
“I baptize with water;
but there is one among you whom you do not recognize,
the one who is coming after me,
whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”
This happened in Bethany across the Jordan,
where John was baptizing.
He was not the light, but came to testify to the light.
Jesus speaks about light quite a bit. He says he is the light of the world (John 8:12), and that we should not hide our light under a bushel, but let it shine for all to see (Matthew 5:15). The beginning of John’s Gospel is also concerned about light, and not just in John the Baptist’s words above referring to Jesus. John starts his Gospel saying, “In the beginning was the Word.” This popular reference to Christ is so profound that it used to be recited at the end of Mass by the priest while he knelt before the altar. The parallels to Genesis 1 are clear. Both John’s Gospel and Genesis start with “In the beginning”, but then, shortly after the writer of Genesis says, “Then God said ‘Let there be light.” Both Johns, John the Apostle and John the Baptist, are announcing a new beginning, tying the first creation of Genesis with the new creation in Christ. Just as the author of Genesis announced the coming of Christ with the words “Let there be light”, the Johns are announcing the coming of Christ as the Word and the light. In Revelation 21:23, when John the Apostle is describing the heavenly Jerusalem, he writes, “And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb.” The reference to light in all these instances is no coincidence. It is Jesus.
I am the voice of one crying out in the desert
The prophet Jeremiah says, “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot” (Jeremiah 20:9). John the Baptist probably did not enjoy his God-appointed role of proclaiming the coming of Christ. He was walking barefoot in the desert, clothed in camel’s hair and living on locusts and honey. He was doing his own penance as he called the world to repentance. Proclaiming God’s word and living an authentic Christian life often is not enjoyable; but when the spirit of God is in us, not proclaiming it and trying to run from our calling is even worse. One cannot be sure what drew John out into the desert, but there are parallels in Scripture. Jesus went out to the desert for 40 days to repent before beginning his ministry. The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years before entering the Promised Land. So we get the sense from Scripture that the desert comes before the kingdom of God. It is fitting then, for John to go into the desert because in this Advent season we are preparing for the coming of Christ the King. In the third Mystery of Light, we meditate on the proclamation of the Kingdom. Here we see the theme of light again. This season is about proclaiming that the light is coming into the world, and we ought to prepare our hearts through prayer and fasting. John the Baptist was responsible for this burden: telling the world that the light has come into the world. There is no doubt that this truth burned in his heart, like Jeremiah’s heart burned, as he cried out in the desert.
I baptize with water
Priests baptize with water, and they are acting in the person of Christ. Is John the Baptist acting like a priest of the Church here? Some people have said that John the Baptist was the first Christian, because he gave witness to Christ before anyone else. He leapt for joy in his mother’s womb when he recognized Christ was near. From his very conception, he was imbued with the mission to proclaim Christ to the world. It was a miracle for Elizabeth to conceive him in her old age. All of this points to the reality that John was a great prophet, unlike any other before him. He is the archetype for Christians who came after him, baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Pray that we all might proclaim the coming of God’s kingdom with such zeal as John the Baptist’s.
there is one among you whom you do not recognize
Have we met Jesus? Do we have a personal relationship with him? Most of us have been asked these questions by evangelical Christians. The inquiry may often fall on deaf ears or be met with rolling eyes, but perhaps every now and then we should ask ourselves the question, even if we believe we already have met him. Jesus may be in our lives, trying to reach us, in ways we don’t recognize. He may be that subtle truth we keep pushing to the back of our mind but won’t leave us alone. He may be a simple word we keep stumbling across when we read Scripture and in our daily lives. That’s why we do lectio divina, to quiet our hearts and listen to where Christ may be reaching out to us in ways we may not recognize.
Lord, you are the Light. You are the Word. I open my heart and ears to you so you may reveal to me the truth you want to reveal. What you are calling me to may be hard to accept or hard to do. Give me the grace and the strength to accept and do your will. I know if you are with me I will have the courage to endure. Prepare my heart for the coming of my savior, Jesus Christ.
Now it’s time for God to speak in the quiet. His word has been spoken. Our minds have been attentive. Contemplate on the mysteries, and listen as God gives you a message meant specifically for you.