Dylan Belton ‘12, ’14 M.T.S, ’20 Ph.D.

Today’s gospel reading follows the famous prologue to the Gospel of John, which describes Jesus as the light of the world that shines in the darkness. The author presents John the Baptist as the herald of Jesus, who is the Word of God enfleshed.

In response to the questioning of the priests and Levites, John the Baptist, by not identifying with the titles ascribed to him, repeatedly avoids any attempt to elevate himself. Rather, he diverts attention away from himself so as to define his role precisely as a witness. He prepares the way for the light that will shine in the darkness—the darkness of separation between God and humanity. It is no accident that he is crying out in the wilderness, where all is desolate and uninhabitable.

The Lord is coming! The light draws near! But the path for his coming appears to be impassible or hindered in some sense; in other words, there is much that can impede the coming and the acceptance of this new light that will shine through the darkness. Paths need to be straightened and roads leveled out. John the Baptist’s cry for repentance is urgent—he calls for dramatic transformation within the core of the human person, without which the light cannot be accepted.

The situation remains very much the same for us today. Like John the Baptist, we Christians are called to define ourselves as witnesses who focus all of our attention upon the light that is Christ. For both ourselves and others, we must still make paths straight and clear a way for the Lord. Let us not forget that there is much darkness within our lives, whether it inhabits us in the form of pride, arrogance, vanity, destructive habits, or a deadly spiritual fatigue. Repentance is continuous necessity for the Christian seeking to remain open to the presence of the light.

There remains much darkness and separation from God within large portions of the world today. Nevertheless, we have been promised that the light continues to shine in the darkness and that the darkness will never overcome it.