What Made John the Baptist GREAT?

LM Martino Nguyễn Bá Thông

Can I have a show of hands of those who want people in the same business as you to be better than you? I know you are not going to raise your hand so let me tell you if John the Baptist was here today, I know I would see his hand!  What makes me so confident about this?  Because I found the answer in today's reading, John said to his followers about Jesus and I quote: "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, "After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me" (John 1:29-30).

Looking at the way things are in our world today, either in politics, business, or any place, it would seem to us that envy and jealousy are normal human traits.  But what is envy and jealousy?  Let us discuss the difference between envy and jealousy.  Envy is dissatisfaction with what belongs to us and coveting what belongs to others. We can envy people for their looks, their possessions or their relationships, wishing we could take their place. Jealousy, on the other hand, is the fear that what is ours may be lost to another. No matter the difference between the two, both envy and jealousy rob people of their inner peace as they devise ways to eliminate the person they perceive as standing in the way to their personal fulfillment.

My dear brothers and sisters, forgive me of what I am about to tell you if it offends you.  I have prayed over it, and decided to tell you what I believe.  However, it is not my intention to harm or disgrace anyone or any religion.

Edward Harris, an Associated Press Writer wrote: "A senior Islamic leader warned foreign relief workers Friday of a serious backlash from Muslims if they bring Christian proselytizing to tsunami-struck area along with humanitarian help.  'All non-governmental organizations, either domestic or international, with hidden agendas coming here with humanitarian purposes but instead proselytizing, this is what we do not like,' said Dien Syamsuddin, secretary-general of the Indonesian Council of Ulemas, or religious scholars.  He also condemned reports the U.S.-based welfare group World Help had planned to adopt 300 Acehnese children orphaned by the disaster and raise them in a Christian children's home.  The group told The Associated Press on Thursday it had dropped the idea.  'This is a reminder. Do not do this in this kind of situation,' Syamsuddin said. 'The Muslim community will not remain quiet. This a clear statement, and it is serious.'"

My dear brothers and sisters, what bothers me is:  For whatever reason unknown to me, the Muslim world and communities do not reach out and help what they call "their people".  While almost every nation pours in billions of dollars to help the people, the Arab world basically does nothing.  Saudi Arabia, the world's richest Arab country, gave only 10 million dollars.    

Let me quote what Colin Power said when he landed in Indonesia and responded to what other have said about the Americans: "I think it does give the Muslim world and the rest of the world an opportunity to see American generosity, American values in action".  I am proud to be part of the Melting Pot in America, and an American.  

It is good to compete, but it better to share; it is good to have rules, but it is better to show love; it is good to be an American Citizen, but it is GREAT to be God's Citizen.  How many people like to hear that the person who succeeded them is doing better than they did? Nobody.  John is a rare example.  John started the Kingdom of God movement. Jesus succeeded him as leader of the movement after Herod imprisoned John and had him executed. Yet whenever John speaks of Jesus he speaks of Jesus as better than him.

My dear brothers and sisters, Christian or Muslim, Buddhist or Hindu, let us not care who is greater or who has more followers, but let us love and care for one another.  The fact is, there is much greatness in being ordinary. Even though John felt he was not worthy to untie Jesus' sandals, Jesus turned around to say of him, "Among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist" (Matthew 11:11).  Listen! Listen carefully!  What is Jesus saying of you?

Father Martino Nguyen Ba-Thong


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