17th December, 2017
John the Baptist had a central role to play in the coming of the Saviour. His role as today’s Gospel puts it, was to be ‘a witness to speak for the light’ – Jesus. John was a courageous witness, he was a strong personality and a man of principle. His lifestyle, as well as his personal integrity, lent credence to his words. He was a living example of what he preached, and when the great task was completed, he moved aside to make way for Jesus.
Jesus still needs witnesses. Fortunately there still are people who witness faithfully and at a great personal cost.
Some years ago a priest made a visit to China. While there he met with an elderly couple both doctors. They had studied together at medical school, fallen in love and married. She a Catholic, he not. She invited him to join the Church, but he did not wish to be baptised. Soon she had their child.
During China’s political movements, the husband, along with several other intellectuals was arrested and sent to a labour camp. The separation was a very difficult time for the wife, who had to work long hours at the hospital during the day and care for the child at night. She was under pressure from the Government to divorce her husband and also to renounce her religion – to gain political advantages. She refused. Every night after she returned home, she and her son knelt in prayer and sought strength from God to endure the difficulties.
At the end of the 1970’s her husband and other intellectuals were allowed back home – she and her son went to the railway station, where they were the only family members on the platform to welcome the men. Unable to endure the long separation, all other women had divorced and remarried. Deeply moved, her husband took instruction and was later baptised.
John the Baptist bore witness to the Light. So did this woman in the story, now it is our turn. A good life is a strong and effective witness, and in itself is a proclamation of the Gospel. When religious practice leads to deeds, a very effective witness is given. No witness reaches our contemporaries as persuasively as the witness of those who do what Jesus commanded.
Without our witness the face of Christ, already blurred, will continue to fade from our world. He will continue to stand among us unknown and unrecognised, and the good news will not be preached to the poor.
The task is not one for the individual Christian only but for the Christian community as a whole. It is easier to witness to Christ as a member of a supportive community. The Advent Candle of Hope is lit this Third Sunday – Our spirits are high in joyful hope as we wait for the coming of the Lord.
With Joyful Hope to one and all
Kindest best wishes