In his homily for the feast of John the Baptist’s birth, Pope Francis emphasized that a true Christian puts oneself aside in order for God to be seen, as St. John the Baptist did.
“A Christian does not announce himself, he announces another, prepares the way for another: the Lord,” the Pope observed in his June 24 daily Mass.
Celebrating the feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, the Roman Pontiff explained to those present in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse that the cousin of Jesus had a threefold vocation: to prepare the way for the messiah, to discern who he was and to diminish himself so that others would follow Jesus.
Although many began to follow John because “his words were strong” and went “to the heart,” the saint did not give in to temptation “to believe that he was important," Pope Francis said.
Instead, when asked whether or not he was the messiah, John replied, “I am preparing the way of the Lord.”
This is the first vocation of the Baptist, to “prepare the people, to prepare the hearts of the people for the encounter with the Lord," the pontiff said.
The second part of John’s vocation was “to discern from among so many good people, who the Lord was,” he continued, noting how “the Spirit revealed this to him and he had the courage of saying: ‘This is the one. This is the Lamb of God, he who takes away the sins of the world.’”
Pope Francis noted that when John declared that “This is the one! And more worthy than me!” the disciples left him and followed Jesus.
The third aspect of John’s vocation was to diminish, and that his “life began to descend, to diminish because the Lord would grow until he was destroyed.”
“He must increase, but I must decrease,” the pontiff said, adding that “this was the more difficult stage for John, because the Lord had a style that he had not imagined.”
John the Baptist was imprisoned at the end of his life and had to send his disciples to confirm whether Jesus was the messiah.
“He suffered not only the darkness of the cell, but the darkness in his heart: ‘But, will it be this one? Did I make a mistake?’” Pope Francis said.
It was not clear if Jesus was the messiah, because he came in a much different way than expected, the Pope reflected. However, since John “was a man of God, he asked his disciples to go to (Jesus) and ask: ‘But, is it really you, or should we wait for another?’”
Christians can learn three things from John the Baptist, the Pope said: How to prepare, how to discern and how to diminish in order to let the Lord increase.
“And a Christian should be a man who can step aside,” he concluded, “because the Lord will grow in the heart and soul of others.”