There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.
This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”
He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’” as the prophet Isaiah said. Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?”
John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Many of us struggle with poor self-image. So when John proclaims that he is not worthy to untie the sandal strap of the Messiah, it might be easy to see this as his disparaging himself.
But John is exercising true humility. He knows who he is and who he is not. His prophetic mission is in service to his God who loved him from before he danced in his mother’s womb.
The Spiritual Exercises invite us to hold important principles in tension: We are deeply loved. We are deeply flawed. We are sent on mission.
Lesser spiritualties see these truths in opposition. St. Ignatius, like John, understood these are the foundations on which true humility rests.
Let’s pray this Advent to embrace a mystery we will never fully understand – a God humble enough to be conceived in the womb of an unwed mother and born in an animal’s feeding trough!
Lord Christ, we struggle to accept our limitations. Like Adam and Eve we reach for forbidden fruit, wanting to be like gods.
You reach out to us, offering us yourself, the Bread of Life. You teach us, by becoming one of us, to embrace the mystery of your humble, life-giving love.
—Fr. J. Michael Sparough, SJPlease share the Good Word with your friends!