In his book 'Taking Flight,' Antony de Melo narrates a beautiful story. There once lived a man so godly. He had no notion that he was holy. His holiness lay in this—he forgot each person's past and looked beyond each person's appearance. He loved and forgave everyone he met; it was his way of looking at people.
One day an angel said to him: "I have been sent to you by God. Ask for anything you wish, and it will be given to you. Would you wish to have the gift of healing?" "No," said the holy man, "I'd rather God did the healing Himself." "Would you want to bring sinners back to the path of righteousness?" "No," he said, "it is not right for me to touch human hearts. That is the work of angels."
"Would you like to be such a model of virtue that people will be drawn to imitate you?" "No," said the saint, "for that would make me the center of attention." "What, then do you wish for?" asked the angel. "The grace of God," was the man's reply. "Having that, I have all desire." "No, you must ask for some miracle," said the angel, "or else one will be forced on you."
"Well then, I shall ask for this: let good be done through me without my awareness." It was decreed that the holy man's shadow would be endowed with healing properties, and so the sick healed, the land became fertile, and people who were sorrowful were now happy every time his shadow fell upon them. The saint knew nothing of these because people were so caught up with his shadow that they forgot him. And so his wish was fulfilled.
St. John the Baptist is perfectly suited to this remarkable story. With humility, John said, "Christ must increase, while I must decrease" (v. 30). The people came flocking to him as he preached, but he did not keep them to himself but told them to go to the Lamb of God, Jesus, the One who takes away sins.
Do you not think that holiness is all about letting Christ—His message, His will--have more control over our lives? In the meantime, we become less and less important. Christ taught us to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Him. As St. Paul says, "I live now, yes, but it is no longer I that lives but Christ who lives in me."
In response to John the Baptist's question regarding whether He was the Messiah, Jesus praises him before the crowd. It was not because they were cousins that Jesus complimented John. John stood for and lived by some noteworthy values.
He was indeed a prophet, a voice of God, which was evident in his life's simplicity. Rather than living in pomp and luxury, he ate wild honey and grasshoppers. Throughout his life, he witnessed the importance of life beyond material possessions. Transparency was a hallmark of John's holiness. He was sincere. Even when it came to his thoughts and feelings, he made no pretensions. In straightforward terms, he expressed these ideas. A martyr, John was courageous in his witness. He stood for God's values and proclaimed a counter-cultural message. His beliefs went against those of the powerful and influential of his time. Nevertheless, he stood his ground.
Will Jesus praise you as He did with John if He comes right before you? In your own life and person, will Jesus find some noteworthy qualities?
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About Father Boby John, C.S.C.
Father Boby John, C.S.C., ordained a priest in the Congregation of Holy Cross in 2008, worked as a pastor and as an educator with tribal populations in Northeast India for thirteen years. Originally from Kerala, India, Father Boby grew up with three siblings. He is a dedicated and detailed educationist with experience in educational leadership. He is currently working as an executive assistant at the world headquarters of Holy Cross Family Ministries, North Easton, Massachusetts.