Daily Gospel Reflection: Memorial of Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen
Bishop Robert Barron
January 2, 2024
Memorial of Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen
Bishops and Doctors of the Church
Gospel: Jn 1:19-2
This is the testimony of John. When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to him to ask him, “Who are you?” he admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, “I am not the Christ.” So they asked him, “What are you then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?” He said: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.” Some Pharisees were also sent. They asked him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” This happened in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
*United States Conference of Catholic
Bishop Robert Barron
Friends, in today’s Gospel, John the Baptist declares that he is the forerunner of Christ.
Why, when we first hear of the adult John the Baptist, is he out in the desert and not in the temple, where you would expect the son of a priest to be? Well, in John’s time, the temple was mired in very messy politics.
What is drawing people into the desert to see him? He is offering what the temple ought to be offering but wasn’t: the forgiveness of sins. This was the importance of John’s baptism.
But here’s the odd thing: he did not draw attention to himself. Rather, he presented himself as a forerunner, preparing the way of the Lord: “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize.” He was pointing toward the one who would be the definitive Temple.
And therefore how powerful it was when, upon spying Jesus coming to be baptized, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” No first-century Israelite would have missed the meaning of that: behold the one who has come to be sacrificed. Behold the sacrifice, which will sum up, complete, and perfect the temple.