The humility of St. John the Baptist may shed light to a society where there is widespread attention given to self-gratification, self-interest, prestige and material possessions. John’s examples may help remind us of our real purpose in this world. We are called to be persons for others. Pride and self-gratification may just generate despair.
John was good at what he was doing. Many followed John because of his strong and convincing message. Even religious leaders from the temple in Jerusalem would come to listen to his teachings. People flocked to the Jordan to be baptized. In many instances, people even mistook him as the coming Messiah. He had many followers that even up this day, there exist several communities that identified themselves to John.
We all know how an extraordinary ability coupled with popularity can assure a person of material prosperity. John could have been swallowed by them and would settle to live a life of material comfort. He could have denied Jesus and run his own show.
But John was true to his calling. He did not give in to temptations.
One of the greatest lessons of John’s life is humility. He obeyed the Lord at all costs, even if it was his own life. He placed himself aside in order for God to be seen. He did not promote himself, he announced another. He prepared the way for another to shine. We are familiar with his popular saying, He must increase, I must decrease (John 3:30). Yes, we must help each other to grow and develop instead of pulling each other down!
Humility finds joy in obedience (John 3:27-30). Mother Teresa once said that humility is the mother of all virtues — love, obedience, charity, and joy. John was content, filled with spiritual joy. He leaped for joy in his mother’s womb at the presence of Jesus and Mary (Luke 1:44). He rejoices to hear the bridegrooms voice (John 3:29-30). Mother Teresa added that nothing can touch a humble person neither grace nor disgrace because he/she knows who he/she is.
John truly knows his purpose. When people asked him what they should do to prepare the way for the Lord, he responded: “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same. Those in authority, don’t collect any more than you are required to and don’t accuse people falsely (Luke 6:11-14).”
John knows the temporariness of life—a basic reality that many of us might have forgotten to remember. We have the tendency to do things that complicate our lives. We gravitate to power, money or prestige to be ahead of others.
If we think the examples and lessons of humility demonstrated by John that took place more 2,000 years ago may not be applicable in our day and age, we are wrong.
We can take some words from a famous person who passed through this world during our time. I am sure many know Steve Jobs. When Steve was battling with cancer, he said that remembering that he would die soon was the most important tool he had ever encountered to help him make significant choices in life. Almost everything, including wealth, external expectations and pride fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.
So what is important?
John tells us that God is important and accepting God in our lives requires humility of heart. A Christian teacher Andrew Murray wrote that pride must die in us or nothing in heaven can live in us. John indeed is a great model of humility, an important attribute to transform our world to be a place where people are hungry for God’s love and spiritual joy.
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