Prayers today: God sent his own Son, born of a woman, so that we could be adopted as his sons (Galatians 4: 4-5).
God our Father, through your Son you made us a new creation. He shared our nature and became one of us; with his help, may we become more like him, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
St. Adrian of Canterbury (d. 710)
Though St. Adrian turned down a papal request to become Archbishop of Canterbury, England, Pope St. Vitalian accepted the rejection on the condition that Adrian serve as the Holy Father’s assistant and adviser. Adrian accepted, but ended up spending most of his life and doing most of his work in Canterbury. Born in Africa, Adrian was serving as an abbot in Italy when the new Archbishop of Canterbury appointed him abbot of the monastery of Sts. Peter and Paul in Canterbury. Thanks to his leadership skills, the facility became one of the most important centres of learning. The school attracted many outstanding scholars from far and wide and produced numerous future bishops and archbishops. Students reportedly learned Greek and Latin and spoke Latin as well as their own native languages. Adrian taught at the school for 40 years. He died there, probably in the year 710, and was buried in the monastery. Several hundred years later, when reconstruction was being done, Adrian’s body was discovered in an incorrupt state. As word spread, people flocked to his tomb, which became famous for miracles. Rumour had it that young schoolboys in trouble with their masters made regular visits there.
The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John (3:22-30)
After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptised. Now John also was baptising at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were constantly coming to be baptised. (This was before John was put in prison.) An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. They came to John and said to him, Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan— the one you testified about— well, he is baptising, and everyone is going to him. To this John replied, A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less. (John 3: 22-30)
(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)
There are certain details about the early stage of our Lord’s public ministry that are mentioned in John’s Gospel, and not in the others. John tells us, as do the others, that after his baptism he returned to Galilee where he began his public ministry (2:11). According to the text of John — although John may not mean to insist on a strict chronological order of events — having begun in Galilee, Jesus returned to Judaea for the Passover (2:13). Having cleansed the Temple and encountered the religious leaders, he “spent some time” with his disciples “baptizing there (3:22). John too was baptizing near Aenon near Salim where water was plentiful, and people kept coming to be baptized” (3:23). This was before John’s arrest. So John was still engaged in his prophetic and baptizing ministry during the early stages of our Lord’s public ministry. Our Lord — at least when in Judaea where John was still active — had his disciples also baptizing. This may have been to build on John’s ministry and to show the profound continuity between his own mission and that of John. We also see how effortlessly our Lord was eclipsing John. We read that John’s disciples came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan — the one you testified about — well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him” (3:26). Our Lord did not put himself at the forefront in his ministry of baptism. John the Evangelist tells us that it was our Lord’s disciples who did the baptizing, not he (4:2). Still, the people were flocking to him — “everyone is going to him,” John’s disciples said. This was becoming known, for as St John tells us “the Pharisees had heard that he (Jesus) was winning over and baptizing more disciples than John” (4:1). A greater star had suddenly risen, and he was the very one John had pointed to. There is not an exact parallel of this in the Scriptures before Christ. Elijah had passed his mantle on to Elisha, but Elisha’s star rose only after Elijah had gone. Here, the new prophet had been indicated by the older, and the new was outshining all others, including his immediate predecessor.
Let us recognize the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. The course of our Lord’s ministry quickly manifested his uniqueness, and John the Baptist was the first to recognize it. When the facts of the case were brought to his attention — that all were now going to Jesus — John rejoiced. He told his disciples that his joy was now complete. “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3: 22-30). John’s words show the immense respect he had for his kinsman Jesus, whom God had revealed to him as the long awaited Messiah. But John also mysteriously refers to him as the bridegroom. Jesus of Nazareth is the bridegroom of the chosen people of God. It is a cause of great joy that “everyone is going to him.” The holy and ascetic John applies the metaphor of a bridegroom, a metaphor which was profoundly rooted in Scripture. It is one which God himself had used to describe himself and his relationship with his people. Yahweh God was the Bridegroom of his people. The prophets had spoken of the people as the spouse — an all-too often unfaithful spouse — of a Husband who was always faithful. This denoting of Jesus as the bridegroom of God’s chosen people bespeaks a unique relationship between Yahweh and Jesus, suggesting an identification. According to the better Greek manuscripts, John had earlier testified to his disciples that Jesus is “God’s Son” (1:34), or alternatively “God’s Chosen One” — probably a reference to the Servant of Yahweh in Isaiah (42:1). All this is to point to the transcendent uniqueness of Jesus Christ, far outstripping John in personal holiness and power of ministry. John rejoices that such a One has now come, and he now must become less.
Let us ask for the grace to contemplate the person of Jesus Christ with the holy and admiring gaze of John the Baptist. His whole work was to set forth before the people the figure of Jesus Christ. Let us so live and work that Jesus Christ will be honoured and glorified in the hearts of others and in the life of society. The more this is done, the more we ought rejoice. Our principal joy in life ought be to see this happen in our families and wherever the providence of God places us. Let the Bridegroom come to the hearts of his people, and let us find our greatest joy therein.