The Gospel reading from the Mass for Sunday Cycle B of the  3rd Week of Advent is John 1:6-8, 19-28.

John the Baptist, the last and greatest of the Old Testament prophets, confirmed that all the ancient prophets of Israel ultimately point to the Incarnation of Christ. Calling Christ “the light”, the Baptist’s “witness” to the coming Messiah was dangerous for it challenged both the Jewish power structure and the political and economic control of the Romans. Indeed, the Baptist’s growing following prompts the Jewish religious leadership in Jerusalem to sent priests, Levites (assistant priests) and Pharisees (hyper-religious Jews) to interrogate and discredit him.

The Jews first want to know “who” the Baptist is. Because of the Baptist’s use of the prophetic sign of baptizing in the Jordan and his clothing and austere lifestyle in the desert that resemble the powerful prophet Elijah, the Jews push John, seeking to know if he is the long-anticipated end times figures; various names were associated with this mysterious forerunner including Elijah, “the Prophet” (like Moses) and the Messiah.  The Baptist denies being any of these (though Christ reveals he is Elijah in mission and spirit – Luke 1:17); the Baptist does confirm he is the forerunner of the Messiah by quoting Isaiah’s 700 year old prophecy (Isa 40:3).

Given the Baptist has denied being Elijah, the Prophet or the Messiah, the Jews then want to know “what” he is doing by baptizing in the Jordan, a powerful symbolic sign of entry into the Promised Land (Josh 3:15-17). Rather than answering the “what” question, John humbly returns to the “who” question, pointing towards Christ, noting his own nothingness (“not worthy”) and the truth that the long awaited Messiah is mysteriously hidden nearby and will soon make a spectacular appearance; John’s words are proven true the next day when Christ arrives to be baptized.

Awed by Jesus ChristPerson of the Trinity, Christ announces His coming through the Prophet Isaiah and causes the forerunner John the Baptist to be miraculously conceived. Son of God, Christ’s divinity is recognized and proclaimed by John the Baptist.

Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1) Be awed by Christ, who through the prophets, builds longing for His Incarnation for centuries; ponder the excitement of the mysterious announcement of His imminent arrival John by the Baptist.

2) The Incarnation of Christ is a Creation-altering event for which God prepared the world beginning in Eden (Gen 3:15). During Advent, consider how God Prepared for the Coming of Christ (CCC 522-524) and pray for Christ to fill you with an ardent desire for Him to become the center of your life.

3) Like Christ’s death on the Cross, Isaiah and John the Baptist were martyred; Christ commands that His disciples must “pick up their cross” which is a call to sacrifice, witness and even martyrdom. During Advent, reflect upon Martyrdom (CCC  313, 523-524, 558, 1434, 2473, 2506) and pray for Christ to prepare you if it is His Will that you die for the faith.

Spiritual Practices – Include in Today’s Prayers

Sacred Mystery of Rosary – The Glorious Mysteries

Daily Devotion – The Blessed Trinity

Virtue of the Day – Charity

Corporal Work of Mercy – To feed the hungry

Spiritual Work of Mercy – To admonish the sinner