All Day (Thursday)
Meditations for Lent By: Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet Courtesy of Sophia Institute Press Week 4: Thursday The Witness of the Baptist “The baptism of John, whence was it?” (Matt. 21:25, Douay-Rheims). Is it possible that the Savior
Meditations for Lent
By: Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
Courtesy of Sophia Institute Press
Week 4: Thursday
The Witness of the Baptist
“The baptism of John, whence was it?” (Matt. 21:25, Douay-Rheims). Is it possible that the Savior should rely upon the witness of St. John the Baptist? He was only his precursor; he was not the Bridegroom, but the friend of the Bridegroom. He was not the Christ, but the one sent to prepare his way, one who was not worthy to loosen the strap of his sandal. Jesus nevertheless relies upon his witness to convince those who were unwilling to believe the Christ himself. Yet John did not work a single miracle, while Jesus filled all of Judea with them. John spoke as a servant, while Jesus, as Son, told what he had seen in the bosom of the Father. “So weak are our eyes,” says St. Augustine, “that a lamp suits them better than sunlight. We seek the sun by the light of a lamp.” Jesus understood this point, saying, “The testimony which I have is greater than that of John” (John 5:36). When he made use of John’s witness, therefore, it was to bring to our poor eyes a light more suited to their weakness. O profound blindness of men more willing to believe St. John than Jesus Christ himself! O God, who would not tremble? Who does not tremble to ask you the reason for this strange disposition of the hearts of the Jews? Is there not something similar in us?
“If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ ” (Matt. 21:25). He had already told them, and they had not known how to respond: “You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth” (John 5:33). If they had admitted the heavenly mission of St. John the Baptist, he would have shut their mouths by his testimony. What then to say? “But if we say ‘From men,’ we are afraid of the multitude; for all hold that John was a prophet. So they answered Jesus ‘We do not know.’ And he said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things’ ” (Matt. 21:26-27). Men of bad faith, who dare neither admit nor deny the mission of St. John the Baptist, you do not deserve a response from me. Admit, deny, think what you will: you are confounded, and there is nothing for you but to be silent. The other way was to believe in Jesus, but they could not, for reasons which would become clear in time.
Let us consider the whole passage from St. John’s Gospel: “You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Not that the testimony which I receive is from man; but I say this that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But the testimony which I have is greater than that of John; for the works which the Father has granted me to accomplish, these very works which I am doing, bear me witness that the Father has sent me” (John 5:33-36).
This is what the witness of St. John the Baptist is for: so that you may be saved, so that you may yourselves be convinced. Thus are the pride and hypocrisy of the chief priests and elders revealed. They did not deserve that the Savior should say any more to them than they had already heard a hundred times and which those hundred times they had not believed. What will happen to us on the last day, when the truth, manifested in power, will eternally confront us in the sight of the whole universe? Where will we go? Where shall we hide?