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Infected by light

· ​Meditation ·

John 1:29-34

Among the Gospels with which the year begins let us listen to the testimony to Jesus given by St John the Baptist, the Precursor, the one who discerns and proclaims the presence of Christ who must increase while he decreases (cf. Jn 3:30), moving away from the centre in order to become with his whole self a sign referring to Jesus. The iconography often reminds us of this by emphasizing John’s finger pointing to Jesus.

Titian, St John the Baptist (1542)

One does not give faith to oneself, human testimony is needed, and John seems to initiate this movement of traditio by his recognition of Jesus who is revealed as the one who baptizes in the Holy Spirit. John repeats that he does not know the one who came before him and yet he can recognize the signs of Jesus’coming, he knows how to prepare his way by fulfilling his task with what itis granted to him toexperience, recognizing Jesus as coming from the Father.

In the verses that precede our passage we read a negative testimony: John is asked who he is and he answers with truth and frankness saying who he is not: he is neither Christ nor Elijah nor the prophet. He says he is the “voice of one crying in the wilderness ‘Make straight the way of the Lord’” (Jn 1:23).

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1): the Word, the Word made flesh whichthe mystery of Christmas has enabled us to contemplate, is the true light come into the world to enlighten every person (cf. Jn 1:9). And “to bear witness to the light” a man comes, the Evangelist writes, whose name was John and “who came for testimony, to bear witness to the light” (Jn 1:7).

This is the task of the Precursor, and with him that of every believer: to let the presence of the Son shine out, he who comes, who is already in our midst.

“He saw Jesus coming towards him”: Jesus comes and John sees Jesus coming. To become witnesses of Jesus we must be able to see and recognize his coming.

“I myself did not know him”: There is a drawing closer, a deepening of the relationship. Time is needed, as it is for any relationship, which requires waiting so that one can accept, encounter and know. Time is needed “so that desire, purified by listening, may become an eye capable of seeing what has already been given” (Silvano Fausti). John is waiting for Jesus without knowing him, and yet he can know him precisely because he is waiting for him.

He recognizes him for himself and points him out to others, he gives a sign, it is a sign of the presence of Jesus, the Teacher. Jesus’ identity is explained on the lips of the Precursor: he “is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world”. The Word can indicate taking upon one’s own shoulders, hence sharing, but also even taking away, liberating: the encounter with the Lord can make us capable of overcoming sin, the root of all evils, the force that gives rise to behaviour that distances people from the light, the darkness that invalidates the ability to see and to distinguish.

The voice of the Father makes Johnable to see and contemplate the Spirit’s alighting on Jesus, in Jesus. The Spirit descends from on high and remains on Jesus: it will be the first disciples, “the next day”, who remain-dwell with Jesus (cf. Jn 1:39).

“And I have seen and have borne witness […]”: external vision becomes intimate knowledge, a possibility of deepening the inner gaze and this shapes the whole of life.

Throughout thisaccount Jesus utters not a word. It is he who goes towards John, for whom he becomes an object of contemplation, a revelation of the relationship between the Father and the Son through the Spirit. John enables us to share this contemplation thanks to his testimony, to his being a sign of the Lord’s presence.

So let us ask the Lord to make us attentive to recognize his presence, to wait for him in our lives to the point of letting ourselves be found by him and thus to be able to know him. In this way, filled with his light, infected by John’s witness, we too, personally and as a community, will be able to point out Jesus, to become a joyful sign of his presence filled with wonder.

The Sisters of Bose




St. Peter’s Square

Sept. 20, 2019