Saturday after Epiphany
Jesus and his disciples went into the region of Judea, where he spent some time with them baptizing. John was also baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was an abundance of water there, and people came to be baptized, for John had not yet been imprisoned. Now a dispute arose between the disciples of John and a Jew about ceremonial washings. So, they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing and everyone is coming to him.” John answered and said, “No one can receive anything except what has been given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said (that) I am not the Messiah, but that I was sent before him. The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. So, this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease.”
Introductory Prayer: Lord, in spite of so many efforts, my self-love and vanity cloud my intentions, reducing the merit of my labors for you. Therefore, I come before you empty-handed. Nevertheless, I’m confident in your forgiveness, knowing that you are pleased to refresh and renew me as often as I turn back to you with hope. I love you ardently, good Jesus, and long to love you ever more.
Petition: Lord, help me to practice true humility.
- “He Must Increase; I Must Decrease”: This is the petition that must burn in the heart of every authentic apostle and leader in the faith. Often, we seek ourselves in our vocation, in our apostolate, in our service to the Church. Some offer themselves only when the work to be done brings them honor or enhances their self-importance. We claim to serve Christ, but if we have our status compromised by criticism or see someone less capable moved ahead of us in rank, our heart crumbles in discouragement and our commitment wanes. In moments when humility is asked of us, may we pass the test that John passes in today’s Gospel. Every day we must look into our hearts to see if they are mirrors reflecting back only self-centered motivations, or if they are windows to the heart of Christ in the world, centered only on humble service. Mirrors weaken the mission; windows empower it.
- Rejoices Greatly at the Bridegroom’s Voice: Breaking the grip of self-love is eminently positive work. We can let go of a lesser love only for a greater one. Every day John’s heart had set its aspiration and love on the Messiah to come. All his ministerial action and spiritual ideals were centered on Christ. His solitude in the desert permitted this love to grow without distraction, communicated as it was in prayer and contemplation. As John states, all he has received he received from heaven—from the supernatural life given by contemplation and grace. Love for Christ was no overnight endeavor, but was the work of years of prayer, self-conquest and fidelity to the life of conversion he was to preach.
Conversation with Christ: Lord, I hear now what John heard: your beautiful voice summoning union with your beloved, the Church. No greater honor and love can I have than to ensure this union happens continuously, perfectly and selflessly. May I learn to accept humiliation and forget myself a thousand times over, so that the needs of your Mystical Body may be brokered over my humble service and self-effacing manner. I pray that my ignoble need to be praised and appreciated apart from your glory never becomes the reason to find you separated from your spouse.
Resolution: I will pray a litany of humility with great fervor today before I go to bed.