Prepare the Way, Then Give Way

Jijo Kandamkulathy, CMF

Claretian Publications, Macau


Jn 1:6-8, 19-28

Today’s gospel introduces John the Baptist who came to prepare the way for the Messiah. The Messiah is light. John’s mission is to give testimony to the light. Later, we will hear Jesus speaking about himself that He is the light of the world (Jn 8:12). He would ask his disciples too to become the light of the world (Mt 5:14). Darkness is easily understood as a metaphor for evil, negativity, despair, and lack of peace and clarity. The light has an ability to make things appear clearly. Spiritually, it refers to the ability to weigh the values of things, and discern what is true and what is fake. Light gives new perspectives to things that were seen vaguely in shadows and darkness. Only in Christ can we assess the value of things in this world and the next.

There is more to this “voice” that came to prepare the way of the Lord than just a passing sound. He not only prepares the way but also gives way to the Messiah. John is a blameless holy man and an appreciated prophet. People could have easily mistaken him for the Messiah, and some did indeed as we see in the gospel today. He could have taken advantage of that! But he gives way. Giving way is the noblest way. When people flocked around Jesus whom he baptized, he says, “He should increase and I should decrease.” What nobility and sense of purpose in his words!

David’s one of the less narrated stories is about his desire to build a temple for the Lord (1 Chr 22). He was passionate about it, convinced about it. He was worried that it was not right that he lived in a cedar house when the Ark of the Covenant was in a tent. But prophet Nathan came and told him that he could not build a house for God because his hands were stained with blood. David listens to the prophet and humbly gives way to his next generation.

We are familiar with political stories of those who refuse to give way. Some are attached passionately to power, or to one’s own delusions of over importance. Some people are afraid to give way because they believe those who succeed will not do as good as they. Are we actually that important? So important as not to get a replacement? It was such an encouraging moment to see when Pope Benedict gave way to Pope Francis, silently, with total renunciation and disinterestedness. He looked at the new Pope with love and admiration, giving not the slightest feeling of disagreement though their leadership styles are visibly different.