Greetings on this the Memorial of Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church
Readings: 1 Jn 2:22-28; 98:1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4; Jn 1:19-28
Who Are You
John the Baptist was asked to make account of himself. Who are you asked the priests and Levites. This is a proper question.
The priests and Levites are responsible for the faith tradition and regulation of the religious teaching and liturgical actions of all within the community.
John who dressed like a prophet (see Zech 13:4 and 2 Kings 1:8) and led an eclectic lifestyle like Elijah (see 2 Kings 1:9 and 2 Kings 4:25) but in humility did not equate his actions and identity with Elijah.
He reassured he was not the Messiah, Prophet, nor Elijah.
So, then, 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.”
The ‘way’ (which later is the first name given to Christianity: The Way) is using the most implausible path imaginable. Instead of returning from the Babylonian exile via the Fertile Crescent path (the well watered and well traveled way), the path will be through a desert which will become a well watered path. This is figurative language of The Way.
Someone new. Something new.
Why Do You
Next questioners are the Pharisees. Their question wasn’t liturgical or spiritual but of power. Why do you – by what authority? This too is a proper question.
John the Baptist answers basically, I am doing my part, call to right living and repentance, the one coming after me is the one who has the authority to have me do these things.
The humility of his answer is unassailable. Who would argue against right living? Who would deny water purification as invalid? But it is easy to miss the deeper meanings and they did miss it.
The Implausible Path
We are called to an implausible path. Not a path based on the power of Armies nor of civil law. It is impossible without the authority of the Messiah. It is impossible by human effort alone. It is implausible because all the levers of government, finance, politics and control are useless for the implausible path, The Way.
Teaching about Martyrdom …
… [were] used to encourage individual self-improvement through ascetic discipline as well as to awaken the Church to the danger of civil and heretical authority masquerading as the instrument of a Christian establishment (Rouseau, BASIL of CAESAREA, 184).
Conversion is a path of love experienced not law imposed rather a baptism of water and spirit.
Peace be with you,