|1 John 2:29–3:6
Psalm 98:3-4, 5-6
John 1: 29-34
“He must increase and I must decrease.”
This is the most memorable line in all the stories of John the Baptist in the Gospels. Just like Bogart’s famous line “Play it again, Sam” and Yogi Berra’s “I never said all the things I said.” I’m not too sure if that’s the right quote or not but since I’m a day late and a dollar short with this reflection I’ll have to let it stand!
Anyway, I think of this line every time I get on a scale, especially now that I’m approaching the mid-century mark.
Relationships. It’s the only ship that does not float on its own and the only ship that never sinks alone. Jesus and John the Baptist. God and the People of God.
When I was in grade school and hanging out with my friends, whenever we were caught in “group offenses” like disrupting the classroom (American individualism had not yet reached Our Lady Star of the Sea Grammar School at this point in time) the good Sisters of St. Joseph would intone this mantra: “Birds of a feather flock together.”
Given that we lived in Bayonne, New Jersey, whose only wildlife was sparrows and cats, we had no idea what this meant! But it sounded good!
Later, when I was a young Jesuit, my spiritual advisor told me that if I wanted to be Holy the best thing to do was to associate with Holy people. Of course Mark Twain once observed: “You go to heaven for the climate and hell for the company.” But then I’m not entirely sure he actually said that. But he could have.
Our readings today invite us to relationship and its responsibility. Both readings tell us that in a relationship one has to give oneself for the other and emulate the other. To love God we must be like God (note: not BE God). We need to be forgiving and perfect as God is perfect perfect in LOVE. Do we fail? Not sure about you but I do. BUT that means only that we must intensify the relationship so that we will be more successful.
John the Baptist announces that his very important relationship with Jesus in one of inequality: Jesus is more important. Jesus felt the same way: John is more important. And so is Mary the Magdalene, Peter, the man born blind, the woman with the bleeding, the Centurion and the widow. In our important relationships the inequality of importance is always balanced by a perfect imbalance: each is more important to the other. Each is willing to sacrifice himself or herself for the other.
But this is not always an easy thing. We can also be self-centered. Anyone who has been in a canoe knows the whole group must balance for each other. Think only for yourself and you’re in the drink....
So as we wind down from the holidays and return to “normal” life it’s important to remember that what’s important is relationships. Our relationship with God. Our relationship with Jesus. Our relationship with one another. More important and indeed more consoling is today’s message—in these relationships God and Jesus and the Other hold us as MORE important.
We must do the same.
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