The Finger that Points to the Moon
“John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him…”
Imagine that moment: John, the forerunner to Christ, who had been spending all his time preaching and baptizing, gathering huge crowds around himself, enjoying massive success and popularity in his ministry; he sees Jesus coming toward him, and he knows that this is the One that his entire ministry has been about and leading to. John’s life was about to completely change; and John knew it.
His own encounter with Jesus had caused his life to take a sharp turn. Now, people were going to start following That Guy. Now, John was going to fade into the background; his popularity was going to suffer and the spotlight was going to be redirected onto Jesus. Shoot – even at His baptism, the sky opened and the divine spotlight shone on Jesus! Jesus was up and coming; John was going to be yesterday’s news.
And John was okay with that. He takes the moment even to point Jesus out and doesn’t downplay that moment: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” Not even John claimed to be able to do that. He could have simply said, “This is my buddy Jesus. He’s a great guy and you might want to listen to what He has to say. You may find it helpful.” If he did that, John could maintain some of that limelight, and maybe people would pop in on Jesus from time to time.
But this was not John’s role. In fact, if you are not Jesus, it’s nobody’s role. His role is to point to that Light to the nations, to identify the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit, the one who truly sanctifies. John understood that the finger that points to the moon is not the moon. This is every disciple’s role – to point to Jesus. Our purpose, as individual disciples and as a Church, is to enable a real encounter with Jesus Christ – and to get out of His way. Everything we do, therefore, has to relate back to that purpose.
St. Paul, in the Second Reading today, is introducing himself. Notice how he does it. We get three verses. In these three short lines, he names himself once, and he repeats “Christ Jesus” four times. Who is more important here? Is Paul looking for recognition? This certainly doesn’t mean that Paul is not important; but it does mean that Christ is more important, central even.
That’s what you and I are called to. Today, Jesus approaches you as you approach Him. Like John the Baptist, our encounter with Christ is supposed to change our lives – and that will mean that He must be more evident to others than even ourselves. This can be difficult in a culture that prizes attention, where young people gather “followers” on Instagram and “likes” on Facebook.
However, Isaiah tells us that the “Lord has … formed [us] as his servants from the womb, that Jacob may be brought back to him and Israel gathered to him.” In other words, your life is not about you – it’s about God and His love for those whom He has created. John was keenly aware of this as Jesus approached him, and he had the grace to point Him out powerfully and faithfully. Not only did John’s life change at that moment, but the lives of so many more changed as well.
Here, we come to Christ in the Eucharist. We are also told “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world; blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.” Our response reflects our awareness of our smallness – our unworthiness that He “enter under our roof.” However, when we truly embrace that encounter and share Jesus, over and above ourselves, lives change – starting with our own.
Brothers and sisters, here comes Jesus. Are you ready for that change?