After this, Jesus went into the territory of Judea with his disciples. He stayed there with them and baptized. John was also baptizing in Aenon, near Salim, where water was plentiful; people came to him and were baptized. This happened before John was put in prison.
Now John’s disciples had been questioned by a Jew about spiritual cleansing, so they came to John and said, “Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, and about whom you spoke favorably, is now baptizing, and all are going to him.”
John answered, “No one can receive anything, except what has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ Only the bridegroom has the bride; but the friend of the bridegroom stands by and listens, and rejoices to hear the bridegroom’s voice. My joy is now full. It is necessary that he increase, but that I decrease.“
It is strange that, when we take a global view of the entire Bible from cover to cover, so few characters are found to be faultless. The ones who spontaneously come to mind are: Abel, Jacob’s son Joseph (Gen 39—45), David’s friend Jonathan (1 S 18—2 S 1), Ruth, Tobit and his son Tobiah, Esther, Job. So much for the Old Testament. But in the New Testament there are far fewer faultless figures—if we remember that at one point all the disciples abandoned Jesus at Gethsemane (Mt 26, 56) and that Paul, through his blind prejudices, did persecute the Church for a while. And so, if we except Jesus and Mary, who stands out flawless in the New Testament? The sole figure of John the Baptizer. He rings true from start to finish. His only “weakness”, if that is the correct term, is that he was not sure about Jesus‘ true personality. But he cleared this honest doubt (Mt 11, 2-6). And Jesus himself praised John unreservedly by calling him “more than a prophet” (Mt 11, 9). In today’s gospel reading this luminous figure has only one desire: to decrease so that Jesus can increase. Should this not be the secret desire of all of us?
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