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‘He must increase while I must decrease’

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‘He must increase while I must decrease’

Today we celebrate the birthday of St John the Baptist and it is also traditionally (though not actually) midsummer.  With that in mind, the words of St John, ‘He must increase while I must decrease’ (John 3:30), can be interpreted in daylight.  After the Nativity, the days grow longer, whereas after St John’s Day, they begin to shorten.   Although there is a pleasing symmetry here, it is not, of course, what St John meant.

Some of John’s disciples had come to him to inform him that Jesus was baptising in the area.  You get the impression that they were expecting John to be jealous of Jesus, or to belittle Jesus’ work in some way.  Of course there is no such response from John.  Instead, he declares that Jesus engaging in his public ministry makes his joy complete.  John prepares the way of the Lord, then shows his disciples the Lamb of God and lets them go to him, never once trying to work alongside Jesus or looking for any recognition for his own work.  He is admirable for his humility alone, but when we consider the part he played in the history of salvation, we can see why Jesus said of him,

I tell you, among those born of women there is no-one greater than John’ (Luke 7:28).

John is always and everywhere pointing away from himself and towards Jesus.  That, surely is his lesson for us today; that we try to become less self-centred and more like Christ each day, so that he may be ever more widely known and loved.

If we’re not careful, Jesus somehow loses his rightful position at the centre of our lives and so we need to keep on repositioning him there.  Sometimes this seems hard because we find ourselves thinking, ‘but what about me?’  But to think like that is a false economy; John the Baptist shows us that.  ‘God calls us to his own beatitude‘ (CCC 1719), and it is through conforming our will to his that we will ultimately get there.

The following words of St Paul’s (Colossians 1: 16-17) serve to remind us why we ought to keep Christ at the centre of our lives.  To do otherwise is to fight against the natural order of things and is, therefore, a waste of time and energy!

All things were created through him and for him.
He is before all things and in him all things hold together’ .

Let us pray that, like St. John the baptist, we may humbly work to build up God’s kingdom, never looking for recognition for ourselves.

St John the baptist, pray for us.

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