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Third Sunday of Advent: Joy of waiting for the dawn

At the end of the first century AD when John wrote his gospel, there were still many people who called themselves disciples of John the Baptist. So, the evangelist clarifies the position of the precursor vis-a-vis Christ.
The Baptist was not the light of the world. He was just the first to recognise “the true light that enlightens everyone” (John 1:9). He was not deceived by the flattery of being called the messiah. He kept himself faithful to his mission.
Later, some priests and Levites were sent by the religious authorities to get the Baptist’s explanation about his identity and behaviour. They ask: “Who are you?”
Many rumours were spread about him: there were those who considered him the Messiah, others took him as the prophet whom, according to the promise of Moses, God would raise up to guide Israel (Deuteronomy 18:1-5). 
The Baptist was loyal and did not accept tags, honours or titles that did not belong to him. He denied all these titles and defined himself simply as a voice crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord. 
It is hard to imagine something more fleeting and ephemeral than a voice, it disappears without leaving a trace.
The Baptist did not want the focus on himself, but on Christ, “It is necessary that he increase but that I decrease”—he would say later (John 3:30). His mission carried out, he was happy to step aside.
He made sure that no misunderstanding arose; he shunned any form of personality cult.
The Baptist also made a journey of faith. He acknowledged that he gradually came to discover Christ, “I myself did not know him. Yes I have seen. And I declare that this is the Chosen One of God” (John 1:29-34).
This spiritual journey is repeated in the life of every believer. It starts from the discovery of the true identity of Christ. Then you arrive at the conviction that deserves full faith. Finally you become a witness to your faith, as Paul said, “We also believe and so we speak” (2 Corinthians 4:13).
The last statement of the precursor: “Although he comes after me, I am not worthy to untie the strap of his sandal” is not as a statement of humility. To remove the sandal was an act covered by marriage legislation of Israel. It meant appropriating the right to marry a woman who belonged to another (Deuteronomy 25:5-10; Ruth 4:7).
By declaring himself not being able to untie the straps of the sandals, the Baptist stated that he had no right to steal the bride of Christ, the Church. John would later speak other than in metaphor, “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” (John 3:28-29).
Advent is the time when the bride (humanity, the Church) is preparing to welcome the groom and the Baptist is the friend of the bridegroom, in charge of promoting this encounter of love.
• Father Fernando Armellini SCJ
Claretian Publications