I used to wonder why John the Baptist played a major role in Advent. Over the time it dawned on me that his role in life as a prophet was to bear witness to Christ, to point Christ out, and to say where the meaning and truth of life is found. All of us who are baptised are called to a similar prophetic role, to point our lives toward Him and not gaze in a mirror.

The last century has been littered by people who claimed to have the answers to the great human questions. Lenin, Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Mao and their successors. They knew what the world needed and left a trail of destruction in their wake which remains to this time. Today, there are despots in waiting – we know who they are – who are prepared to pay any price to impose their expert solutions. The bookstores and the television have books and experts on how to have the perfect Christmas. All these gurus have something in common: look to me and I will solve your problems.

At which people of my great vintage recoil. There’s something deep inside me that says life is more complex than the clarity provided in the various solutions these oracles offer. They speak to people who feel overwhelmed and long for a simple answer that will deliver security, clarity and some semblance of happiness. Such dictators are never without people who are willing to be led into darkness. Darkness means many things writes Kieran O’Mahoney: a sense of being lost, a lack of direction, helplessness, sin or indeed lack of faith.

The Baptist points away from himself. He declared openly, “I am not the Christ.” He is not the truth, not its possessor. He is not the way but only points to the way. Whoever recognises Christ for who he really is cannot help but point away from themselves and towards the One who is to come. Authentic recognition of Christ does not present ‘Jesus as the answer to everything.’ The ‘Jesus is the Answer’ of the advertising hoardings is not the Christ pointed to by John the Baptist, yet many are eager to adopt that simplistic version.

Jesus is the way that begins in the wilderness and while it does end in triumph, that triumph is the cry from the cross “it is completed.” Christ does not invite us to adopt a set of answers to life’s problems, but to embark on his way, adopt his style and begin the journey from whatever wilderness we inhabit.

Fr. QQ – 11/12/2023

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