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Friends, in today’s Gospel, we are told that John “was sent from God.” The Baptist came, the Gospel writer tells us, “for testimony, to testify to the light”—for he was not, himself, the light.

From time immemorial, God has sent messengers, spokespersons. Think of all the prophets and patriarchs of Israel, indeed of every sage, philosopher, artist, or poet who has communicated something of God’s truth and beauty. All of these could be characterized as witnesses to the light.

The point is that the one to whom the Baptist bears witness is someone qualitatively different—not one more bearer of the Word, however impressive, but the Word himself. What is being held off here is the tendency—as prevalent today as in the ancient world—to domesticate Jesus and turn him into one more in a long line of prophets and seers.