St. John the Baptist uses the challenges of the Jewish leadership from Jerusalem to cryptically reveal that Jesus the Savior will soon arrive. Every Catholic man can grow in happiness by building the Virtue of Magnificence so he can fearlessly proclaim Jesus Christ and by seeking the Gift of Fortitude from the Holy Spirit so he can be prepared to be a martyr for Jesus. 

Commentary

The Church begins the new calendar year with the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, who, with St. Joseph, first witnessed the glory of Jesus. The Church then recalls the Epiphany (“Epiphany” means “manifest, disclose, discover, conspicuous“) and the baptism of Jesus, celebrating those who witness Jesus’ Divinity after His Nativity (The Shepherds, the Magi, John the Baptist, Andrew, John the Evangelist, Peter, John, Andrew, Phillip, Nathanael, and those at the Wedding at Cana). 

John the Baptist, God’s chosen messenger charged with preparing the way for Jesus, attracts the attention of powerful Pharisees (rigorously devout Jews) in Jerusalem who send priests and Levites (assistants to priests) out into the wilderness to investigate, and to discredit him. The Jewish leaders believed the zealous and charismatic John was a dangerous revolutionary and a false messiah because of his preaching and baptisms. When interrogated, John simply states he is not the Christ (in Hebrew, “Messiah”), not Elijah (John is not Elijah in the flesh, but in mission) and not the prophet (a new Moses). 

Instead, John the Baptist does what he has been charged by God to do: he turns attention away from himself and focuses on announcing Jesus. Using well-known words from the Prophet Isaiah (“I am a voice crying out…”), John unequivocally confirms he is the anticipated forerunner of the Messiah. When asked by what authority he is baptizing (a prefigurement of the Sacrament of Baptism), John refuses to answer, again pointing to the still hidden Christ who is so great that the powerful John recognizes he is not worthy to untie His sandals. John’s choice to baptize in the Jordan River recalls Israel’s miraculous crossing of the Jordan into the Promised Land (Josh 3:15-17) and prefigures the Sacrament of Baptism by which souls enter the new Promised Land of the Kingdom of God. 

Be awed by Jesus Christ

Be awed by how Jesus prepares John the Baptist to be His forerunner: Person of the Trinity, through the prophets He created and inspired, Jesus builds longing for His Incarnation as the Messiah/Christ for centuries; Divine Power, Jesus creates, protects, and provides for John the Baptist during his upbringing and his time in the desert; Divine Knowledge, Jesus guides John to encounter Him in ancient Scripture and directs John as to how to reveal His coming. 

Be magnificent by proclaiming Christ

Realize: To “testify” comes from the root word “testis” (testicle), underscoring the serious and manly courage (Gen 24:2) needed to be a “witness to truth”; today, to testify for Jesus in the increasingly intolerant and sin-loving world is a heroic act. 

Believe: Reflect upon the need to be a fearless Witness for Jesus (CCC 2087, 2471-2474).

Pray: Almighty and Most Gracious Father, help me build the Virtue of Magnificence (a part of Fortitude) so I take up the great and courageous work of telling others about Your Son and Your Holy Catholic Church each remaining day of my life. 

Prepare to be a martyr for Jesus

Realize: The Greek word for the Latin word testamonium (testimony) is martyria from which the word “martyr” (bearing witness to Jesus even unto death) is derived; John the Baptist would go on to be martyred for his steadfast testimony for Jesus and for defending the sanctity of marriage. 

Believe: Reflect upon Martyrdom (CCC 957, 1173, 2113, 2473-2474).

Pray: Holy Spirit, give me the Gift of Fortitude so I am supernaturally strengthened by You, I strive to build Your Church, and I and prepared to lay down my life for Christ if it be God’s Will.