Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah. John answered them all, saying, "I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased." (Luke 3:15-16, 21-22)
Introductory Prayer: Almighty and eternal God, you are high above us in the heavens, and yet you are so near to me. I know that you love me infinitely. I rest in your love; I find my strength and hope in you alone. Thank you for loving me despite my sinfulness and complete unworthiness. In return, I offer you my whole self, along with my intense desire to put you first in my life.
Petition: Jesus meek and humble of heart, make my heart more like yours.
1. One Mightier Than I Is Coming:John knows who he is not. Proper self-knowledge is an essential step on the path to sanctity. John is attracting the attention of the multitudes in Israel. Many people would be flattered or even intoxicated with this notoriety. Yet John is not grasping for power, nor does he seek to be someone he is not. He is preparing people’s hearts for the true Christ. The Evil One will continually try to get us to look to ourselves and our own talents in an attempt to distract our eyes from God and his plan for us. John gives us a shining example of the triumph of humble self-knowledge over the wiles of the devil. When we are totally oriented toward God, we give rise to the desire to eliminate from our personal life any lie, vanity, and inflated opinion of ourselves. We begin to live in the truth, giving all the gifts God has granted us their real value. We use them for the service of his Kingdom, without taking anything for ourselves, since everything is his.
2. I Am Not Worthy to Loosen the Thongs of His Sandals: There is no holiness without humility. Simply understood, humility means living in the truth. This humility is born of a proper understanding of our relationship to God. It has nothing to do with a lack of self-respect – Jesus was humble, yet with utter self-possession and strength! Humility is the awareness that even our greatest talents come from God and are meant for his glory. In the end though, even John’s humility will pale in comparison to the humility that Jesus models for us in his life. “The one who serves does not consider himself superior to the one served, however miserable his situation at the moment may be. Christ took the lowest place in the world — the cross — and by this radical humility he redeemed us and constantly comes to our aid” (Pope Benedict XVI, God Is Love, 35). Once again we see that Jesus asks of us only what he himself has been willing to embrace. He is the source of the strength I need to practice this humility in my daily life.
3. Jesus Was Also Baptized: By being baptized, Jesus associates himself with sinful humanity. He has taken our flesh in the Incarnation. Now he sets out on the path of taking our sins upon himself so that he might redeem us from them. If it was a scandal for the Jewish people that God would become a man, how much more scandalous was it that he would be baptized, a manifest sign of repentance for sins? So great is God’s love for us that even this act is not beneath him. It is one of many steps by which he will allow his love for us to lead him even to the ignominy of the cross. Have I truly contemplated how important I am to Jesus?
Conversation with Christ: Blessed Lord, you went to the extreme of the cross to prove your love for me. You have borne my pride, and with your love and humility, you have proven yourself stronger than my greatest sin. Give me the strength and courage to follow you down the path of self-giving and humble service to those around me. Free me from the shackles of pride.
Resolution: Today I will read and reflect upon the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 1262-1270.