Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, bishops and doctors of the Church(Memorial)
Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; everyone who confesses the Son has the Father also. Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he has promised us, eternal life.
I write these things to you concerning those who would deceive you. As for you, the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and so you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, abide in him.
And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he is revealed we may have confidence and not be put to shame before him at his coming.
Sing a new song to the Lord
for he has worked wonders.
His right hand and his holy arm
have brought salvation. (R./)
The Lord has made known his salvation;
has shown his justice to the nations.
He has remembered his truth and love
for the house of Israel. (R./)
All the ends of the earth
have seen the salvation of our God.
Shout to the Lord all the earth,
ring out your joy. (R./)
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 desert, '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.
By his preaching of repentance, John the Baptist prepared the way for the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. In the Orthodox church, John is titled as "prodromos ," and in the Western, Latin church he is "precursor " (forerunner), describing his unique role in the story of our salvation. In order to prepare to be a spiritual guide for others, he was drawn by the Holy Spirit to an austere and contemplative style of life, living in the desert of Judea from his youth until his early manhood, about thirty years of age.
At that stage he began his public mission as a preacher of repentance and renewal to his Jewish people. Clothed in a rough penitential garb of camel-skin, be announced the grace of God to all who came to him in search of repentance, and who went down into the waters of baptism for the washing away of their sins. He showed them simple ordinary ways to serve God in their daily lives, and proclaimed the imminent coming of the Messiah, who would pour out God's Spirit more richly upon them.
Many people seeking direction, especially those regarded by the Temple authorities as marginal Jews (such as tax collectors and prostitutes) received John as the true herald of God, and heard his words as those of a true prophet. To the official leaders of Judaism, the Priests and the Pharisees, John seemed more a threat than a blessing. Their resistance to a message requiring moral and spiritual renewal made them unable to hear the divine guidance latent in his words. Today's Gospel is a sober reminder to all of us, but especially to church leaders, to listen to what the Holy Spirit says through the voices of awkward prophecy.
The question put to John the Baptist, “Who are you, then?” is one of the most challenging of all questions to answer. We can struggle to answer honestly or fully, “Who am I, really?” It’s easy to reply at a certain level by telling people where we were born or what work we do or what role we play in our family, “I am an accountant” or “I am a carpenter,” “I’m from Dublin; I’m a husband; I’m mother of five children. While these answers would be true, to get beyond the externals of our autobiography to who we are in inmost our core is much more difficult. Our responses to that deeper question can change as we go through life. How we answer it at this moment in our lives is not what we would have said earlier in our lives.
For people of Christian faith, the answer to this existential question will be influenced by our relationship with Jesus, because that relationship affects us at our very core. Saint Paul is the great example of this immersion in Christ. If asked, “Who are you, then?” he might answer in the words he wrote in Galatians, “it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.” His identity had become a Christ-stamped identity. When John the Baptist was asked that key question in today’s gospel, he cals himself a voice that cries in the wilderness. His identity was shaped by his relationship with Jesus. He is the voice who witnesses to the Word, the Word that has become flesh. Our destiny is to keep on growing into Christ until our identity is fully shaped by our relationship with him.