January 8th Saturday; He Must Increase, I Must Decrease

Mass readings for today are here

 Gospel John 3 : 22-30

Jesus and his disciples went into the region of Judea,
where he spent some time with them baptizing.
John was also baptizing in Aenon near Salim,
because there was an abundance of water there,
and people came to be baptized,
for John had not yet been imprisoned.
Now a dispute arose between the disciples of John and a Jew
about ceremonial washings.
So they came to John and said to him,
“Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan,
to whom you testified,
here he is baptizing and everyone is coming to him.”
John answered and said,
“No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven.
You yourselves can testify that I said that I am not the Christ,
but that I was sent before him.
The one who has the bride is the bridegroom;
the best man, who stands and listens for him,
rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice.
So this joy of mine has been made complete.
He must increase; I must decrease.”

The expression “when less is more” made me think of three great
persons who demonstrated this wonderful counter-cultural paradox.

John the Baptist compared himself to a lonely voice crying out in the desert saying, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” He said, “He must increase, I must decrease.” 
Jesus realized the greatness of this man and said, “Of those born of women,
John the Baptist is the greatest.” Being less in his eyes made him more in the sight of God. 

Mary proclaimed the greatness of God while calling herself the servant of God. Yet, all can now call her blessed among all women. 
Finally, Jesus did not equate himself with God but considered Himself as God's servant. As result,  God raised him above all creatures.

He must increase, and I must decrease." 
To be a disciple of Jesus is to risk and trust, and to follow Him means my way of life in which self fulfilment is a high priority might mean giving myself away for the sake of something bigger than myself.

Walter Brueggemann turns John the Baptist's  lack of personal ambition into a way of living, relating, reconciling and healing.

"Decrease / Increase as a rule of life triggers deeply subversive responses to the life around us, and within us.
  • Decrease what is greedy, what is frantic consumerism, for the increase of simple, life-giving sharing.
  • Decrease what is fearful and defnsive, for the increase of life-giving compassion and generosity.
  • Decrease what is fraudulent and pretense, for the increase of life-giving truth-telling in your life, truth-telling about you and your neighbour, about the sickness of our society and our enmeshment in that sickness.
  • Decrease what is hateful and alienating, for the increase of healing and forgiveness, which finally are the only source of life."
Walter Brueggemann, The Threat of Life. Sermons on pain, Power and Weakness (Fortress, 1996) 

1 comment:

claire said...

Ah, I like this post very much (thank you for the W Brueggeman's quote), perhaps because I am so aware I need to decrease so much in myself and my life :-)

Thank you, Phil!