1. Introductory prayer for Third Sunday of Advent – Gaudete Sunday – John the Baptist Denies Being the Messiah – John 1:19-28
I pause and slowly calm myself. I make the sign of the cross, becoming more deeply aware of God’s presence within me and in everything that surrounds me. I ask for the grace of the Holy Spirit, for the gift of being moved by God’s word, which I am now allowed to read, listen to, ponder, and allow it to shape Christ within me (Gal 4:19), that I may become merciful, just as the heavenly Father is merciful (Lk 6:36). I ask for this in my own words or by using the following:
“Heavenly Father, thank you for Jesus Christ, who is always among us. I ask for the grace of the Holy Spirit, to more deeply understand the reality of His presence in this prayerful reflection and to build, together with Him, your kingdom of peace, justice, and love.”
Please grant me the grace to be able to listen from the outside and from within. From the outside, the words I read, from within, the feelings and impulses that arise. Slowly, I begin to read the passage from the Gospel. Word by word. Line by line. I gaze upon Him who speaks to me.
2. Reading – Listening: Third Sunday of Advent – Gaudete Sunday – John the Baptist Denies Being the Messiah – John 1:19-28
6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
19 Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders[a] in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. 20 He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.”
21 They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?”
He said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?”
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He answered, “No.”
22 Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”
23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”[b]
24 Now the Pharisees who had been sent 25 questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”
26 “I baptize with[c] water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”
28 This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
3. Thoughts on the Gospel: Third Sunday of Advent Peace – John the Baptist Denies Being the Messiah – John 1:19-28 – Meaning and Commentary
John the Baptist came to help people discover the light of God’s Word present in life. His testimony was so significant that many people thought he was the Christ (Messiah)! (Acts 19:3; John 1:20). Thus, in the prologue, it’s clarified that he was not the light but came to bear witness to the light.
The Jews wanted to know who this John was, baptizing people in the desert and drawing them to himself. They sent messengers to ask him who he was. His response was unusual. Instead of stating who he was, he told them who he was not: ‘I am not the Messiah!’ Then he added two more negative responses: neither Elijah nor a prophet.
Both Elijah and the prophets had roles in messianic hope. In messianic times, Elijah was expected to return to turn the hearts of fathers toward their children and the hearts of children toward their fathers, essentially restoring human solidarity (Matthew 3; Sirach 48:1-11). The prophet would bring to completion the work begun by Moses. The people saw him as the long-awaited Messiah (Deuteronomy 18:15). However, John rejected these messianic titles because he was not the Messiah.
In this dialogue between John, the Pharisees, and the priests, we see the catechesis of the community towards the end of the first century. The questions they posed about the significance of John the Baptist in God’s plan were communal. Therefore, John’s answers, as recorded by the evangelist, were directed towards the communities.
Those who were sent by the priests and Pharisees wanted a clear answer. It wasn’t enough for them to know what John was not. They wanted to know who he was and what role he had in God’s plan. His response was a sentence taken from the prophet Isaiah, quoted in all four Gospels: ‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: make straight the way of the Lord’ (Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4; John 1:23). In such use of the Old Testament, we see how the early Christians read the Scriptures. They found that these words expressed their experience of God in Jesus (2 Timothy 3:15-17).
In Christian communities towards the end of the first century, some only knew John’s baptism (Acts 18:25; 19:3). When they encountered other Christians who received Jesus’ baptism, they wanted to understand the significance of John’s baptism.
During John the Baptist’s time, there were various types of baptisms. Baptism was a form through which a person committed themselves to a specific message. Those who accepted this message were invited to confirm their decision through baptism (washing, cleansing, or immersion). For example, with John’s baptism, a person committed themselves to the message he preached. With Jesus’ baptism, a person committed themselves to His message, receiving the gift of the Spirit (Acts 10:44-48; 19:5-6).
John’s statement that there was someone among them whom they did not know referred to Jesus Christ, who was present among the crowd. When the evangelist John wrote his Gospel, Christ was present in communities and among people, especially among the poor with whom He identified. Even today, He is present among us in various ways, often unrecognized.
4. Meditation – Thinking
I am now reflecting on the heard Word of God. I am looking at Jesus and other individuals in the passage. I am observing how the Word of God touches my thoughts and feelings, how it reveals God to me and me to myself and others in Him. The following thoughts or questions can also be helpful:
- Which aspect of John the Baptist’s attitude captured my attention and brought me joy?
- How can the Advent season and John the Baptist’s proclamation help me prepare for Christmas?”
5. Personal Prayer
In the next moments of silence, I talk about this with Jesus. I tell him what I think, what I feel, what I want. I ask him for the grace that I need for … (make your conversation with God).
6. Contemplation – Quiet moment with God
I allow everything within me to fall silent. I am simply present in God, just as He is present in me. Perhaps from this silence and stillness, I will sense even more of God’s address and His desire for me to be always with Him and to do everything with Him and in Him…
When I enter into a personal relationship with God, He transforms me, makes me more loving, and inspires me to take concrete action…
8. Prayer at the end
“Heavenly Father, thank you for this time of grace in prayerful reflection. Thank you for opening my senses to the presence of your Son, that I may live and act more consciously in unity with Him, in His Spirit.”
9. Review of my prayer meditation or reflection
This is the time when I became aware of and articulate what was happening within me during prayer. The following questions can assist me in reflection:
- What was happening during prayer? What feelings and thoughts could I discern within myself?
- What did I learn about God, His relationship with me and others, and my own relationship with Him and others?
- How did I conclude my prayer? What did I receive in it for my everyday life?
- In the end, I can jot down my insights, discoveries, and realizations. I also note where I encountered difficulties, as these can be valuable in understanding God’s relationship with me and my relationship with Him. They can also help me find a more suitable way of praying. Then, I express gratitude to the triune God for everything.
Lectio Divina meditations are published and adapted with permission from the Jesuits home – ignacijevdom.si
Text from the Bible – New International Version (NIV)