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 of one crying out in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord!”
Those who had been sent were Pharisees; and 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.
One could say that today celebrates friendship–friendship at its best. For indeed the two saints we are remembering today, Sts. Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, were great friends, even ideal friends one could say. Born around the year 330 in the Roman province of Asia Minor (present-day Turkey), they were students together in Athens, then the intellectual capital of the world, and later became monks, living together in the same monastery—therefore sharing the same basic ideal of becoming perfect lovers of God and neighbor. However, they had quite different personalities. They were even opposites in a sense—which proves that great friends can be as different as night and day. Basil was an organizer, a man of action, whereas Gregory was more of a contemplative and a poet. Eventually both were made bishops. Basil was a great fighter of the heresy called Arianism. Gregory after a while found the public life too much for him and retired to a quiet place called Nazianzen.
To have a close friend is to be blessed indeed, for it is to have someone who will always love us and help us to become better persons.
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