3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
January 22, 2023
Matthew, our Evangelist, indicated that Jesus began His public ministry after John the Baptist was arrested. Why did Jesus take this decision? There are several reasons. The first one is that Jesus fulfilled what John himself has prophesied, “He must increase, but I must decrease (John 3:30).” John was highly popular, and many people followed him and considered him as a prophet of God, but his ministry came to a halt after he was imprisoned because he reprimanded Herod who married his brother’s wife (Mat 14:1-12). As John was no longer able to preach, Jesus came and bring the Good News.
Another interesting reason is that John serves as a mirror to the life and ministry of Jesus. What John did and experienced, would be done and experienced by Jesus, but with much greater scale. John’s conception was miraculous, because Zacharias and Elizabeth were deemed to be too old to have a child. Jesus’ conception was even unparallel because He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. John had great followers and disciples, and also many people followed Jesus, and some became His close disciples. Both John and Jesus preached repentance, but the distinction is also clear. John preached to prepare the way of the Lord, while Jesus preached to build His Kingdom of God.
John baptized as an outward sign of inner repentance, while Jesus granted true forgiveness of sins. John authenticated his messages through his lifestyle, Jesus proved His Gospel through unprecedented miracles and mastery of the nature force. Both John and Jesus were persecuted and executed because they preached the repentance and truth, and thus, offended the authority. However, Jesus resurrected and ascended into heaven, while John, who is already in heaven, is still waiting for his resurrection of the body.
When I met Fr. Gerard Timoner, our Master of the Order, in Rome, he told me this interesting fact about John and Jesus. John’s birthday is June 24 while Jesus is December 25. What is fascinating is not only the date is six months apart, but also the natural phenomena happening around those dates. John’s birthday is near to summer solstice. It occurs when the tilt of the Earth’s axis is most inclined towards the sun, resulting in the longest period of daylight for the year. Yet, after this solstice, the days are growing shorter and shorter. Meanwhile Christ’s birthday is near winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. Yet, after this solstice, the days are growing longer and longer. These phenomena also fulfil what John said, “He must increase, but I must decrease”
What is for us? As we begin our journey through the Ordinary Season, we are called to be like St. John the Baptist. We are to mirror Christ in our lives. We may have different vocations in this world, like laity, married persons, priests, or religious women, but in our way of life, we are to reflect Christ. Do other people see Jesus when they see us? Do we bring peace, repentance, and truth to others like Jesus does? Are we leading others to Jesus and not be tempted to draw people to ourselves?
Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP