Second Sunday of Advent|Year B
Mark 1: 1-8
The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way”—
“a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’
And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
John was a strong and assertive man. His preaching enthralled many people, and his lifestyle was not for the faint-hearted. But his deep faith was accompanied by the humility which enabled him to rejoice in his secondary role to that of Jesus. If he had been affected by pride or jealousy he would have made much of himself and less of Jesus. Perhaps he had encountered that type of temptation during his time in the desert, and any delusions of grandeur had been destroyed in the spiritual furnace of the desert.
There are many times in our lives when we are called to be a supporting act for someone else. Parenthood is an obvious example. John’s words about Jesus “He must increase; I must decrease”, are at the heart of being a good parent. Parents instinctively put their children first in order to give them the best possible life. Parents are not consumed with jealousy of their child’s achievements but rejoice in them.
There are many people who have done good and great things whose achievements have only been possible because of the dedicated work of someone else. When people receive awards they often say the award is an acknowledgement of the team which has worked with them. The best people really mean that, because they have enough humility to know that their achievements would have not been possible without others.
Jesus spoke about John in ways which revealed his deep admiration for the role John played, and the price he eventually paid for his dedication. Those who lead and achieve great things must always be aware of those who make these things possible, and be open about the contribution of others.
If we are called to play a supporting role to another at some stage in our lives, it is important to be sure that who and what we are supporting is morally good, and stands up in the light of our faith. We also need to be sure that we are not being exploited or taken advantage of because of our dedication to the person or cause. Our human dignity and potential should never be diminished by what we do for another.
Playing a John the Baptist role requires wisdom and self-knowledge, humility and faith. It is never a lesser role because it is an essential role.