“It is vanity…to be ambitious of honors, and to raise oneself to high station.” (IC 1,1,4) “[T]here is one among you whom you do not recognize…whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” (Jn 1:26-27)

In today’s Gospel reading (Jn 1:19-28), John (the Evangelist and Apostle) introduces us to John (the Baptist).  The latter is confronted by Jewish religious leaders sent to determine who John was and why he was baptizing.  They find out (also see Mt 3:11) that his is a baptism of repentance that is meant to pave the way for someone much greater (to whom we are introduced in the following verses).  John does not exalt himself but, rather, clearly recognizes his role as a forerunner to the “Lamb of God,” thus his final words to the Pharisees, repeated in the headline above.

Kempis warns against vanity, which he characterizes as exalting worldly things.  Included in his list of vanities is the line that tops this post.  John, had he been caught up in his popularity (see Mt 3:5-6), could have easily succumbed to attributing honor to himself, to “raise [him]self to high station.”  Had he kowtowed to the religious leaders of his day (not! — see Mt 3:7-10), he would undoubtedly been given a place of honor at table at their banquets (as it turns out, because of his defense of truth, his sole appearance at a banquet comes only from the neck up — see Mt 14:3-12).

But John knew his station and he knew the one coming after him (even from the womb! — see Lk 1:41). He knew better to exalt himself (the true judge of hearts, Jesus, took care of that for his cousin — see Lk 7:28).

Related imageBartolomé Estéban Murillo, c.1655

On this Memorial of Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church, we ask for these two great saints, personal friends, and defenders of the Faith to pray for us.

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