Balik-Tanaw | Jesus’ Tribute to John

JONEL B. DALIMAG
CICM, Baguio City

Isaiah 8:23—9:3
Psalm 27:1,4, 13-14
1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17
Matthew 4:12-23

John is perhaps the youngest person at his time to recognize Jesus. John was still in the womb (unborn) of his mother Elizabeth when he leapt for joy in recognition of Jesus (Lk. 1:41). John felt again Jesus’ spirit when he baptized Jesus at the Jordan river (Mt. 3:13-17). John was even hesitant to baptize Jesus, saying: “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”. But Jesus, recognizing John’s spirit, simply said: “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” After this encounter, they went their own separate ways, preaching repentance and God’s Kingdom. In one occasion, Jesus gave a report to John : “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy[a] are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” Lk. 7:22). Jesus and John were very much of the risks and the dangers of what they were doing. However, their commitment to bring justice to the oppressed and to the poor, the marginalized and the abandoned, to heal the sick, and to proclaim the Good News to all, is so strong that they were willing to face all the risks and the dangers that are attached to their missions.

Jesus’ reaction of moving to Galilee after he heard the arrest of John is a tribute to John. Jesus needed to take up the cudgels and continue the mission of proclaiming the Kingdom of God. Jesus did not use John’s imprisonment as a reason to gave up the fight for justice, for the poor and the marginalized, and for the sick. On the contrary, Jesus’s resolve to bring about justice and peace became stronger and more dynamic. This is Jesus’s best tribute to John. Jesus moved the center of his activism to Galilee, where ordinary people, common folks like the fisherfolks, vendors, ordinary laborers abound. In acknowledging and recognizing John’s vision of the Kingdom of God, Jesus used the same words that John uttered in the desert: Repent, for the Kingdom of God is coming. By his action of starting a movement in Galilee, of bringing to the fore the injustices and the abuses common people in Galilee deal with, He gave hope to these ordinary people. As a result, some of them followed Him: Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. Hence, the Jesus movement grew bigger and stronger. In this regard, Jesus exemplified the very spirit and essence of activism: to continue to fight for what is just and right, to take up the fight when one companion is down or has fallen, to continue to believe that justice, peace, and righteousness will flourish, and to make other people see the light and the truth. Indeed, the very essence of proclaiming the Kingdom of God, through social action and solidarity is to bring to reality what the first reading describes as: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing, as they rejoice before you as at the harvest, as people make merry when dividing spoils. For the yoke that burdened them, the pole on their shoulder, and the rod of their taskmaster you have smashed, as on the day of Midian”

In the context of the Philippines, many development workers, socio-cultural advocates, peace advocates and activists were arrested, tortured and even killed. They are the modern Johns in our midst. Do we have modern Jesus to take up the struggle for the fallen Johns? Or do we have people like Paul, who in the second reading, committed himself to preach the gospel so that Christ cross might not be emptied of its meaning?

John’s arrest was a signal for Jesus to intensify his preaching, to bring his preaching to other places and other people, to do more. Jesus did not see John’s arrest as a setback but as a push-factor from him to invite other people to join their cause. Jesus and John were united in the cause they were fighting for. Their unity became stronger and more vibrant when Jesus shared their cause to other people. It is in sharing a common cause, a common struggle, a common vision, that true unity arises. As we often say, in union, there is strength. However, in our present context, the challenge we are facing is this: In ONION, there is strength (meaning power and money). How can we counter this ONION power? Let the UNION/UNITY of Jesus and John be a shining example for us to continue the pursuit of justice and peace, so that we can claim that the “Kingdom of God is at hand.” (https://www.bulatlat.org)

Balik-Tanaw is a group blog of Promotion of Church People’s Response. The Lectionary Gospel reflection is an invitation for meditation, contemplation, and action. As we nurture our faith by committing ourselves to journey with the people, we also wish to nourish the perspective coming from the point of view of hope and struggle of the people. It is our constant longing that even as crisis intensifies, the faithful will continue to strengthen their commitment to love God and our neighbor by being one with the people in their dreams and aspirations. The Title of the Lectionary Reflection would be Balik –Tanaw , isang PAGNINILAY . It is about looking back (balik) or revisiting the narratives and stories from the Biblical text and seeing, reading, and reflecting on these with the current context (tanaw).

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