This was the testimony of John when the Jews sent priests and Levites to ask him, “Who are you?” John recognized the truth and did not deny it. He said, “I am not the Messiah.”
And they asked him, “Then who are you? Elijah?” He answered, “I am not.” They said, “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Tell us who you are, so that we can give some answer to those who sent us. How do you see yourself?” And John said, quoting the prophet Isaiah, “I am the voice crying out in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord.” Those who had been sent were Pharisees; so they put a further question to John: “Then why are you baptizing if you are not the Messiah, or Elijah, or the Prophet?” John answered, “I baptize you with water, but among you stands one whom you do not know; although he comes after me, I am not worthy to untie the strap of his sandal.”
This happened in Bethabara beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
“Who is the liar?” To answer this question, we can say that just about everyone is a liar. We live in a world where truth is easily compromised, where we glibly deny reality and conveniently rationalize any concealment of truth. The “economy of the truth” as the expression goes, describes a careful use of facts so as not to reveal too much. It is tantamount to concealing the whole truth with half-truths and therefore, a lie. At the heart of our human tendency to lie and to deny reality is our avoidance of the uncomfortable truth and our fear of rejection. Denial of our real self, of our background and history, is a denial of the gift of self that God has given us. This denial is a form of lie. This is the challenge of today’s Gospel echoed in the question posed to John the Baptist: “Who are you?” Can we, like John, reveal our true selves to others and not deny who we truly are by hiding behind masks, achievements, titles, and roles? Are we, like John, able to recognize and proclaim the truth with humility that “we are not worthy to untie the strap of his sandal?”
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