John replies that he is not the Christ. This first answer of his points us down a valuable path for all of us to follow in all kinds of situations and relationships.
Today’s readings can be found here. Read Fr. Epicoco’s brief reflections on the daily Mass readings, Monday through Saturday, here. For Sunday Mass reading commentary from Fr. Rytel-Andrianik, see here.
“Who are you?” is the question the priests and Levites ask John the Baptist in an attempt to pigeonhole him into some definition and identity. Indeed, this strange and charismatic man could be the messiah, or a prophet, or even Elijah himself.
John replies that he is not the Christ. This first answer of his points us down a valuable path for all of us to follow in all kinds of situations and relationships. We are not the messiah, and therefore we must stop thinking that we can save the world or individual people. We are not the messiah, and therefore we need to stop playing God in different circumstances or acting as if we were the ultimate meaning of other people’s lives.
It’s a great realization to say of oneself, “I am not the Christ.” But John doesn’t limit himself to that; he also adds that he is not Elijah. In fact, he is more than Elijah, but what John is trying to challenge is the belief that if he could be labeled it would resolve the doubts of the people who question him. We have to give up our prejudices, and even if oftentimes we know the theory by heart, we have to accept that the Lord will challenge it so that he can truly bring it to fulfillment.
Solving problems in our heads is not the same as having solved them in reality as well. John wants to force his listeners to enter completely into reality, into experience, and for that very reason he challenges all their beliefs. Today the gospel invites us to get out of our heads and let ourselves be baptized in the concreteness of the situations we are called to experience at this time in our lives.
Father Luigi Maria Epicoco is a priest of the Aquila Diocese and teaches Philosophy at the Pontifical Lateran University and at the ISSR ‘Fides et ratio,’ Aquila. He dedicates himself to preaching, especially for the formation of laity and religious, giving conferences, retreats and days of recollection. He has authored numerous books and articles. Since 2021, he has served as the Ecclesiastical Assistant in the Vatican Dicastery for Communication and columnist for the Vatican’s daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.