Second Sunday of Advent





Fostering greatness in others


A woman went out for a run on a cold but bright winter’s morning. The sun had just come up and was scattering light to the four corners of the sky.  As she walked along she noticed that the moon too was in the sky, but compared to the sun it was so pale that it was barely visible. Yet, an hour or so ago it was bright and beautiful to behold and it dominated the sky. Now it looked like a beggar, which had been pushed into the background.  It was like a candle made redundant by electric light. It suddenly occurred to this woman that it was this ragged ‘creature’ whose faithful light had seen people through the darkness of the night.


John for a while dominated the scene, and enjoyed great popularity.  He worked hard to bring his own light to the people.  All the same, he was conscious of the fact that a greater light was coming, a light he himself was not destined to walk in.  Sidney Keyes touches into the place of John the Baptist, in the sacred history of time.


I, John, am not reed but root;

not vested priest nor saviour but a voice

crying daylong like a cricket in the heat, 

demand your worship.

Not for me

but for the traveller I am calling

from beyond Jordan and the limestone hills, 

whose runner and rude servant I am only.

Not man entirely but God’s watchman.

I dwell among the blistered rocks

awaiting the wide dawn, the wonder

of his first coming, ……


John does not make himself the focus of his prophetic witness; he does not claim that he is the way, the truth and the light. John was only the moon; Jesus was the sun. John understood his own powerful place within the larger context of God’s plan and this frees him to bow out to the one who will baptise with the Holy Spirit.  Jesus’ greatness does not diminish John’s importance, precisely because of who Jesus is.  John who allowed the word of God to invade his whole being, is so secure, so wrapped up in the Word, so focussedon ‘preparing the way for the Lord, making a straight highway for our God’ .. that when the time arrived he could step aside and not lose the sense of who he is.


John’s way is a challenge to all of us: to foster the greatness in others without feeling threatened about the value of our own contribution; to be free to celebrate the importance of others because we have a sense of our own worth and value before God.  All of us are tempted to hug the lime light.  We often, unconsciously perhaps, dominate others and relegate them to the shadow.  As a result people feel oppressed and a lot of light is lost to the world. As the relationship between John and Jesus teaches us, the generosity in recognising the goodness in others can help them call out the good that is in ourselves.  When that happens, there are no losers.

 Sr Sylvia OP

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