Reading ahead for this third Sunday of Advent, in the Gospel (John 1:6-8, 19-28), we hear the narrative of some priests and Levites sent into the wilderness to question John the Baptist. The dialogue that unfolds, if we can imagine, is rather odd. The inquirers approach the rough man dressed in camel’s hair:
John: “I am not the Christ.”
The inquirers continue, “What are you then? Are you Elijah?”
“I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?”
So they said to him, “Who are you…what do you have to say for yourself?”
I was struck in reading this dialogue, with the question, “Who are you?”
How do I respond to such a question? Who am I?
The Gospel passage begins by describing John as one “…sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him” (John 1:6).
Is this also the role of every follower of Christ? To give testimony to the Light, which is Christ? To be like John, allowing ourselves to become less and less, as those to whom we testify grow in their knowledge of Jesus (ref. John 3:30).
John the Baptist is a reminder for us, a contrast to the way the world would like us to see reality. His austerity tells us, all his attention is upon the “one among you whom you do not recognize…whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie” (John 1:26-27). Our world is uncomfortable with such a message of self-depreciation, and even more so with a messenger that points to Christ by the very way he lives his life. It is not possible for a person to live with such conviction if they are not certain of who they are.
The question begs an answer. “Who are you?”