John the Baptist as the Forerunner of Jesus
Today’s Gospel (Jn 3:22-30) demonstrates the transition from the ministry of John the Baptist to that of Jesus. And offers some intriguing points about Jesus’ ministry and the role of John as the forerunner of Jesus. The encounter that took place between John the Baptist and his disciples provides the setting. Earlier, John had prompted others to follow Jesus by pointing Him out to them: “Look, here is the lamb of God” (Jn 1:36).
In today’s Gospel reading, the disciples of John the Baptist express uneasiness as Jesus seems to take over John’s ministry from him – baptizing people and winning more followers than John. John’s response (reaction) to the attitude of his disciples towards Jesus leads to some significant points.
One being that he was aware that his mission was ending – he would soon be imprisoned and suffer martyrdom.
The other being that John understood his calling as that of “the best man,” who stands and listens to the bridegroom and who rejoices at the arrival of the bridegroom. He has fulfilled his mission because he has arranged the wedding of Jesus with the people of Israel depicted with the commencement of Jesus’ public ministry. With his mission accomplished, John can retire with joy.
The Joy of a Mission Accomplished
I would like to compare John the Baptist’s fulfillment of his vocation with that of Simeon. He who sang the nunc dimittis in Luke 2:29–32. The aged Simeon had been promised by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. Simeon, who was at the Temple when Mary and Joseph came to present the infant Jesus, recognized the baby as the promised Savior. He took Him in his arms, and raised his hymn of praise: “Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace, just as you promised.”
Thus, Simeon shows the joy that is associated with the accomplished mission, and it is immeasurable. Simeon’s case enlightens our understanding of John’s fulfillment, a fulfillment that requires steadfastness. The peculiarity of the two men from whom we can learn many lessons about the joy of accomplished goals is that they were clear about their vocations. And were patient and active towards their accomplishment. John understood his mission in God’s saving plans, his calling, and his identity. Therefore, it was not a burden to him, nor did he feel that Jesus has taken his place.
Rather, he understood his mission in light of Jesus’ ministry. John knew he was the announcer of the Good News, but not the Good News itself. From the way the narrator presents him, it appears he became insignificant when Jesus arrived. However, he did not yield to the feeling that he was second to another. Simply put, he was in touch with his calling and stayed faithful to it.
Understanding One’s Calling
Of course, many interpreters of this Gospel periscope would always refer to John the Baptist as an epitome of humility. When the associates of John the Baptist complained that all recognitions are directed towards Jesus instead of John, John exclaimed that he must decrease so that Jesus will increase. In light of what we have said so far about the attitude of John towards his mission, it is obvious that understanding one’s calling and destiny could be helpful for a fulfilled life.
A positive attitude towards our vocation requires two things: First, to be aware of what our calling is all about. Second, the eagerness to make the necessary effort towards realizing our goals. I pray that we may be wise enough to discover our calling. And that God may give us the grace to strive towards its accomplishment.