“Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.” – Saint Augustine
(Gospel text: Jn 3:22-30)
Jesus and his disciples went into the region of Judea,
where he spent some time with them baptizing.
John was also baptizing in Aenon near Salim,
because there was an abundance of water there,
and people came to be baptized,
for John had not yet been imprisoned.
Now a dispute arose between the disciples of John and a Jew
about ceremonial washings.
So they came to John and said to him,
“Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan,
to whom you testified,
here he is baptizing and everyone is coming to him.”
John answered and said,
“No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven.
You yourselves can testify that I said that I am not the Christ,
but that I was sent before him.
The one who has the bride is the bridegroom;
the best man, who stands and listens for him,
rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice.
So this joy of mine has been made complete.
He must increase; I must decrease.”
Our contemporary culture has become one of silliness and superficiality. We tend to live on the surface of life and allow ourselves to be swept away by the winds of every fashion and trend, opinion and whim. Its sad to say, but many people in Western Civilization today live unreflective lives.
What is the prescription for this current state of mind?
It is contained in the words of St. John the Baptist at the end of today's Gospel: "He must increase; I must decrease."
As a nation and as individuals we have dethroned Jesus from our hearts. Even though the numbers of the so-called "nones" (people who are not affiliated with any religion) are growing steadily, the vast majority of Americans still consider themselves in some sense believers.
But does their belief really translate into their everyday existence? For too many the answer is clearly, as well as sadly, no.
Another way of saying it is that we need to strive towards dying to ourselves, to our whims, to our sinful habits, to our self-centeredness, to our childish attachments. We need to work at reorienting our lives and eliminating from them everything that keeps Jesus at arm's length.
St. Paul wrote: "When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things" (1 Corinthians 13:11).
As a culture we are in the throes of spiritual death but it is still possible that we could be brought back to life. The prognosis is poor but there is hope. The diagnosis is dire, but there is a cure.