Day 1: DECEMBER 16
Reflections on John 5:33‑36
by Peter Nguyen Hieu, SVD
I would like to start my homily with a story entitled “The clown and the Fire”.
There was once a traveling circus in
The clown hurried into the village and requested the inhabitants to come quickly and help put out the fire. But they thought that it was meant to attract people to the performance and they clapped their hands and applauded the clown. He tried to get the people to be serious; to make it clear to them that it was not a trick but it only increased their laughter. They thought he was acting out his part splendidly and did not realize their mistake until the circus was burned down and the village engulfed in the flames.
The clown in the story, as a messenger, tries to bring the alert message to the people, in order to alarm them of the coming disaster, but the people did not believe him. Instead, they even mocked at him. And as the result, the entire village was destroyed by the fire. The clown is the messenger.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus affirms the role of John the Baptist: He is indeed a prophet, a forerunner of Jesus Christ. Truly, John the Baptist is the last prophet of the Old Testament and the first who gives witness to Jesus Christ. He is the hinge that connects the Old and the New Testament. He is the bridge that links the past, present and future.
As a forerunner, a messenger of Jesus Christ, the role of John the Baptist is clear:
First, John the Baptist is a witness to Jesus Christ. John the Baptist is the son of a devout priest Zechariah, but he does not behave as a priest of his time. He grows up in the desert, distancing himself from the luxury in which the Jerusalem Priestly aristocracy lives. By his dress, diet and preaching, John presents himself as a prophet, a witness to the coming of the Lord. He affirms himself as “a voice in the desert”, preparing the way of the Lord as prophesied by Isaiah.
Secondly, John the Baptist is a prophet. A prophet is someone “who speaks for…’ A prophet is one who speaks for God and interprets Gods will for the people. John The primary duty of a prophet is not to speak for his own, but to call people for repentance. John the Baptist humbly empties himself before Jesus Christ, whom he introduces. He only exists in reference to Jesus Christ. He refuses to be called the Messiah (Jn1:20), He wishes to become less important so that Christ become more important (Jn ). He himself is not the light, but only a lamp, burning and shining so that the people will enjoy the true light-Jesus Christ (). He is a servant, not worthy to untie his sandal (Jn ). And finally, as the destiny of a true prophet, he gives up his life to witness to the truth.
Dear brothers and sisters, in the spirit of the Advent, we are called to repentance and to give witness to Jesus Christ. John the Baptist invites us to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord. It is the preparation of our hearts. He calls us to fill up the valley of hatred and evil desire, to flatten the hill of pride, of fraud and envy, to straighten the crooked of greed, deceit and corruption, so that our life will become a lively witness to the Lord, Jesus Christ. The true preparation of the coming of the Lord is to repent and to give witness to Him, as John the Baptist did.