Bishop Martin Drennan writes ‘John the Baptist was content with what God had given him; it was enough for his mission in life. That contentment liberated him. He had no need to pretend that he was more than what the Lord had made him. He declared that he was not Elijah, not the Christ and not the prophet that Israel expected. He was a voice that prepared for the Word who was about to appear. Pope Francis identified the gift of that Word in these terms: ‘Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.’ John’s service to the world of his time was to point to the one who would bring the healing, the peace, the freedom and wisdom that was longed for then and is sought after at all times. When Jesus came it was to be John’s privilege to point him out. The Baptist was an authentic and a powerful witness for God. Presenting himself as a humble prophetic voice he pointed beyond himself to Christ as the bearer of salvation. John was gifted with the ability to face reality and name it accurately. Where many prophets before him had failed John had some success in the way that he managed to persuade some of his audience to face reality and turn back to the Lord who alone could satisfy their search.’

What causes anyone to be so self-effacing and why the air of urgency? John is quite emphatic. Real joy, the kind that breathes peace of mind and fulfilment even in the face of challenges and difficulties is to be found in knowing God’s love for each of us, and loving and serving God and the people he invites us to share his life with.