Monday, June 24, 2013

The Bridegroom's Friend

His mission was completely directed to another – to preparing for the coming of Jesus.  His ministry of baptism was not a goal in itself, but functioned as an introduction to the ministry of Jesus and came to an end at the moment when Jesus’ began. 

For John, this is just how things should be, and he explains his feelings on the matter using a wonderful analogy: “It is the bridegroom who has the bride; and yet the bridegroom’s friend, who stands there and listens to him, is filled with joy at the bridegroom’s voice.  This is the joy I feel, and it is complete.”

For Christ to grow in us, we have to be ready to give up, or at least to reconsider, what we think we know about God and ourselves. The work of growing less can require renunciations as radical as John’s leaving for the desert, giving up comfortable clothing for animal skins and home cooking for catching bugs and raiding bee hives. In less colorful terms, opening ourselves to Christ growing greater can mean giving up ways of thinking and acting that make us feel safe, comfortable and stable. This is a demanding ascesis, one that requires real honesty, courage and sustained effort.  

But the other side of this coin, and the aspect that John himself emphasized, is the complete joy experienced by one who has felt the growing presence of Christ in himself and among his brothers.  This is the point of our monastic ascesis and of all Christian life.  It is the joy of knowing Christ within and among ourselves for which we all strive.

The Birth and Naming of Saint John the Baptist, Sano di Pietro, Italian, Siena 1405–1481 Siena, 1450–1460, Tempera and gold on wood, 9 5/8 x 18 7/8 in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Used with permission.

Excerpts from Father William's Homily for today's Solemnity.