Choose your language EoF

Gospel for Sunday, December 17: John 1:6-8. 19-28

III Advent B

6 A man sent from God came: his name was John. 7 He came as a witness to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but he was to bear witness to the light… 19 This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to question him, “You, who are you?” 20 He confessed and did not deny. He confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 Then they asked him, “Who, then, are you? Are you Elijah?” “I am not,” he said. “Are you the prophet?” “No,” he answered. 22 They then said to him, “Who are you? That we may give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He answered, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as the prophet Isaiah said.” 24 Those who had been sent were from the Pharisees. 25 They questioned him and said, “Why then do you baptize, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize in water. In the midst of you stands one whom you do not know, 27 the one who comes after me: to him I am not worthy to untie the strap of the sandal.” 28 This took place in Bethany, beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.

Jh 1:6-8. 19-28

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather ( Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.

Sunday “Laetare!”

“The invitation to joy is characteristic of the Advent season: the waiting for the birth of Jesus, the waiting we experience is joyful, a bit like when we wait for a visit from someone we love very much, for example, a friend we haven’t seen for a long time, a relative… We are in joyful expectation. And this dimension of joy emerges especially today, the third Sunday, which opens with St. Paul’s exhortation “Rejoice always in the Lord” (Entrance Antiphon; cf. Phil. 4:4, 5). “Rejoice!” Christian joy. And what is the reason for this joy? That “the Lord is near” (v. 5). The closer the Lord is to us, the more we are in joy; the farther He is, the more we are in sadness. This is a rule for Christians. A philosopher once said something more or less like this, “I do not understand how people can believe today, because those who say they believe have a wakeful face. They do not bear witness to the joy of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” So many Christians with that face, yes, wake face, face of sadness…. But Christ is risen! Christ loves you! And you have no joy? Let’s think about this a little bit and say, ‘Me, do I have joy because the Lord is near me, because the Lord loves me, because the Lord has redeemed me?'” (Pope Francis).

The disciples of the Baptist

To understand today’s Gospel passage, we need to in frame it in the controversy that John’s Church still experiences at the end of the first century against those groups of followers of the Baptist who revered John the Baptizer as the promised Messiah. Indeed, among the various recipients of John’s Gospel are the followers of the Baptist. Alongside the three official parties (Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes), there existed in Jesus’ time popular movements of religious awakening centered on the necessity of conversion and penance for salvation: they constitute the Baptist movement, so-called because it proposed the ritual ablution of baptism as a sign of purification. Among the various groups in this movement, that of John the Baptist and that of Jesus emerged. A group of followers of John the Baptist lived in Ephesus (Acts 19:1-7), where, according to Irenaeus, the Gospel of John was written. The pseudoclementine Recognitiones, from the third century, say the Baptists affirmed the messianicity of their teacher while misrecognizing Jesus.

John the Baptist in fact was a man who had a large following in contemporary Judaism, and far more extrabiblical sources speak of him than those that record Jesus of Nazareth. Only a portion of his Baptist disciples followed Jesus, recognizing him as the expected Messiah. Perhaps the majority of John the Baptizer’s disciple groups remained faithful to his memory, continuing over time to follow his teachings of austerity and rejection of all compromise with political and religious power. Some truly convinced that he was the eschatological prophet, while others not knowing Jesus of Nazareth sufficiently, as is the case with the Baptists mentioned in chapter 19 of the Acts of the Apostles, who live only in the sign of John’s water baptism, without even knowing the new baptism in the Holy Spirit proclaimed by Jesus Christ; “While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul, having crossed the regions of the highlands, came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples and said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you came to faith?” They answered him, “We have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “What baptism did you receive?” “The baptism of John,” they answered. Paul then said, “John administered a baptism of penance, telling the people to believe in the one who would come after him, that is, in Jesus.” After hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, and as soon as Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit descended upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all” (Acts 19:1-7).

Jesus and not the Baptist is the promised Messiah

The Gospel of John in 1:8-9 states that Jesus and not the Baptist was the light. In 1:30 that Jesus existed before the Baptist and is greater than him. In 1:20 and 3:28 that the Baptist is not the Messiah. The Baptist himself in 3:30 will confess that he must decrease in the face of Jesus’ growth.

Priests and Levites go to John the Baptist to subject him to a proper trial in which they ask him to publicly clarify who he is. In the community of Qumram they expected three eschatological figures: a royal Messiah, a priestly Messiah, and a “Prophet similar to Moses.” The Baptist refuses to apply the role of these traditional figures to himself:

1. he is not the royal Messiah (Jn 1:20): there is here a polemical clarification against the Baptist’s communities;

2. he is not the Elijah who is to come (Jn 1:21): the apocryphal book of Enoch (90:31; 89:52) prophesied Elijah’s return before the great Apocalyptic Lamb. Later in Elijah the priestly Messiah was identified alongside the Davidic-kingly Messiah;

3. he is not the “Moses-like prophet” expected at Qumram (Jn. 1:21).

The Baptist

1. claims for himself the role of the voice spoken of by Isaiah (Jn 1:23; Is 40:3), which calls for preparation for the coming of the Lord;

2. performs the eschatological gesture of baptism, but distinguishes his baptism only with water from that which the Messiah will celebrate, which will be in water and Spirit (Jn 1:33);

3. awaits a hidden Messiah, the “Son of Man” of the book of Enoch, and not the triumphant, ruling Messiah of Israel of whom the prophet Micah had spoken (Mic 5:2).

The Baptist, “sent by God and a witness” (Jn. 1:6-7)

The Baptist was a man sent by God. All of us are sent by God. All of us have a vocation. At every age we must ask ourselves why God has sent me here and now. We need to ask ourselves about our mission. Each person has his or her own mission to fulfill in God’s plan. No one is born by accident. No one is here and now by chance.

Each of us must be a witness to the light, to “that true light which enlightens every man” (Jn. 1:9). Each of us must be a witness to Christ, proclaiming him by his life, his works his words to those who are in darkness, to those who are waiting to be enlightened and warmed by the fire of Christ.

Like the Baptist, each one of us will have to know how to pull back, to make himself small, to be careful not to proclaim himself but only the coming Lord (“He must increase and I, on the other hand, decrease”: Jn. 3:30). Each of us is called to be a Forerunner of Jesus, who by his life points only to him, his beauty, his Gospel, his salvation. Let us therefore ask ourselves today, “What do I witness with my life? Am I a living sign of Christ? Do I open for others a way to the coming God?”

Happy Mercy to all!

Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at


Spazio Spadoni

You might also like