Reflection – Saturday Jan. 9

“He must increase; I must decrease.”

Today’s Gospel reading presents us with an all-too familiar scene both in the scriptures and in our everyday life.  It is that of a group of disgruntled people.  It is people who are not getting their own way, those who have found something to complain about  (yes, I often fall into this category as well.)  The followers of John come to him and say “The one you baptized is now baptizing others.  And, what’s more, he’s getting a bigger crowd.  The guy on the other side of the river is stealing your show.  He’s taking away all your business!  We were the big show in town and this new guy has come and stolen the limelight away.  What are you going to do about this?”

What is John’s response?  “No problem.  That’s okay.  That’s what I wanted to happen.  In fact, it makes me happy that he’s getting all the hype, that he’s the big show in town now.  That’s been the plan all along whether you like it or not.  I must shrink into the shadows so that that he can enter into the spotlight.  I must decrease and he must increase.”

For us as Marianists, we are called to always point to Christ.  In all that we say and do, we are called, like Mary, to bring Jesus in to the world.  Today’s gospel reminds us through the story of John the Baptist that we must always make sure that it’s about Christ and not us.  It is a reminder of the humility and sense of service that we are called to each and every day.  Through the living of our lives, we are bringing others to gather around that guy on the other side of the river (Jesus) and not ourselves or our individual ministries or whatever else we might be doing at the moment.

As our egos start to deflate, it’s probably a good time to recall that while John the Baptist reminds us of this today, the last several weeks have been one long reminder of this.  The Christmas season has been a continuous story of the manifestation of the Messiah, the one who must increase.  As we come to the end of another Christmas season, we are reminded of the many stories and people who allowed themselves to take a back-seat so that Christ could shine in the world.

The shepherds rejoice not in being visited by angels, but in seeing the newborn king.  The Magi altered their return home and forego a possible “in with the king” to protect the new child.

We have journeyed with Joseph who humbly accepted the will of God in his life.  He could have easily said, “Whoa look what happened to me and my marriage plans.”  But rather he said, “Yes I will forego my own plans and raise Jesus even if it means going to Egypt for a while.”

And, of course, there is the image of Mary, the one who says, “I come to do your will, not mine.”  I am always struck by the numerous icons and statues of the Madonna and Child that depict this so well:  It is Mary holding Jesus for all to see;  It is Mary presenting Jesus allowing him to be in the forefront.

The words of John the Baptist, “I must decrease and he must increase,” are a good summary for the close of another Christmas season.  It is a reminder that we are called to always bring others to Jesus, to help others gather around him who is the light. In all that we do, we must joyfully decrease so that Christ may increase.

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