The people were so touched by the message of John that they started asking him “What then should we do?” His response to them was simple, that is “continue in your current livelihood but do things differently: share with the needy, be honest, be kind, be content.”
This message is timely, especially that Pope Francis has declared in his April 2015 papal bull of indiction, Misericordiae Vultus (Latin: “The Face of Mercy”) The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy (also called the Year of Mercy), from the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 8), 2015 to the Feast of Christ the King (November 20), 2016. It is a major event in the Catholic Church, a special, holy year of remission of sins and universal pardon, in this occasion focusing particularly on God’s forgiveness and mercy. It is an extraordinary Jubilee because it had not been predetermined long before; usually ordinary jubilees take place every 25 years. Since God has gifted us with mercy, it means we also have to be merciful to others.
Because the people believed so much in John, they entertained the thought that he must be the Messiah. He could have taken the opportunity to grab the spotlight and give all the credit to himself. Instead, he answered,
“I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Lk. 3: 16 – 17)
This response could have excited a lot of people then. His message was so attractive and powerful, especially in those times.
John was the signpost that pointed the way to Jesus. The authentic among the prophets and even the good people among us, also show the way to Jesus, rather than point attention to their own. Just like John, they also teach us to be generous and share with the needy, to be honest, to be kind to all, and be content with what we have. By their own nature, born out of genuine love for others, they follow the same message that John shared. And to cap it all, they don’t show the need for attention, they just go about ordinary things in the extraordinary ways of humility and compassion.
Like John, may we consistently point to Jesus, rather than let selfish pride make us seek attention to ourselves. May the example of humility that he showed make us do our role as God intended us to do in sharing the Good News to the people around us.