John the Baptiser is described by the Roman historian Josephus as “a good man (who) had exhorted the Jews to lead righteous lives, to practice justice towards their fellows and piety towards God , and so doing to join in baptism” (Antiquities 18:116-118). I am struck by an essential quality of his goodness – John’s willingness to step out of the spotlight.In John’s day, the quality of a rabbi was demonstrated by the number of followers he had. The more disciples you had – the greater you were as a rabbi. The Bible passage above describes John pointing out another rabbi as being a better teacher, and allowing his students to follow Jesus. John is willing to commit the equivalent of rabinnical suicide! This is the sign of a healthy self esteem. John is able to affirm the work of another without the need to tear this work down.
Here lies a challenge for us all: to learn to affirm the gifts in people around us, instead of being threatened by them. This will only happen when we have discovered that we are loved unconditionally by God. Once I know that I am loved by God, I have no need to grasp at the love of the people around me. Instead I am set free to give love.
Prayer thought: “O Lord: allow me to know that I am loved, so that I am set free to give love”.