Benedictine University and’s Mark Kurowski reflects on St. John the Baptizer and how he is a good example for the rest of us.  He isn’t talking about his wardrobe, or his diet.  Listen to this podcast of his reflection for the Third Sunday of Advent. Please read John 1:1-6, 19-28.

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For Benedictine University and, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 12/11/2011The 3rd Sunday of Advent.
Please pause this audio and read John 1:1-6, 19-28.
Have you ever thought about the music to which you listen? I am not talking about style, I am talking about structure.  Have you ever considered a triad?
I can tell by the confused looks on your faces that some of you have no idea what I am talking about.  A ‘triad’ is three notes that are played together to produce one sound.  If you play the piano or guitar, they are usually called a chord.  So, in demonstration of how a chord works, I, one time, asked a parish I served to have one side of the church sing a “c”. Then I had everyone on the other side sing an “e”.  Then I had the choir sing the “g” above that on the scale.  AND THEN I had everyone sing together.  It took a little work, but the chord was beautiful.
You see, it takes work to get things together.  Each person in each section needed to concentrate on their part to have a successful triad.  Everyone had a part. Everyone needed to concentrate on their tone to make sure the notes sounded good. Then we all needed to pay attention to the others to make everything work together.
It would not have done any good for one of the participants to go to another part of the building to practice to make the triad work.  It wouldn’t have worked if one of the participants, who had been given a voice by God to sing the first note, decided to sing the second note which was too high for us.  It wouldn’t have worked if the participants had not sung their note because they didn’t like it.  In fact, no matter how we felt about singing our particular note, it wouldn’t have happened if we had not agreed to let me direct the whole process.
Of all the things that I could say to you today about John the Baptizer, the most important is that I am thankful he knew who he was to be and the fact he lived out who he was supposed to be.  John could have been powerful in human terms.  John could have reveled in his ability to preach and cause others to repent.  He could have fallen to temptation to believe his headlines.  But he didn’t.  In fact, John was born to be second fiddle to Jesus Christ and he accepted it to God’s glory.
Jesus Christ is simply “God is” and “God does” breaking into humanity.  How can you compete with that?  I know preachers who try to compete with it.  John could have competed with our Lord.  That was not John’s role. His role was to support Jesus.  His whole life was created by the Father in Heaven for the purpose of point to Jesus and telling the world who he is and how to prepare to encounter him.  John was born, not to “be whatever he wanted to be,” but to be who God needed him to be.
So, here is John, playing the second fiddle that the Lord gave him to play.  Frankly, he is fulfilled.  He has all of his career expectations met.  That should not be surprising.  I will tell you why.
I was once helping the trumpet players at Wirt High School in Gary, IN how to play as a section.  Really, this could be any high school band, but I happened to live there at the time. I had a horrible time convincing them to play their parts and to play them well.  In bands there are usually three different parts for trumpets.  The section will be broken down so that each part is played to compliment the others.  The students couldn’t get over the fact that only two of them got to play the part marked ‘first trumpet.’  They didn’t want to play the ‘second trumpet’ part or the ‘third trumpet’ part.  All of them wanted to play the ‘first trumpet’ part.  Consequently, the whole section didn’t play as well as they could because no one could accept their part and play it well.
You cannot have a triad if everyone is singing only one part.  You cannot have a good trumpet section if you don’t have everyone playing all the parts well.  The different parts give the music body and fullness if done well.  If everyone is trying to make themselves the star then you usually have a good choir or trumpet section with one or two voices straining and ruining the fullness that cannot be heard above their quest for stardom.
St. John the Baptizer understands that his second fiddle complements Jesus’ coming as the Christ.  It is he who points to the work of God.  He plays his fiddle to the fullest.  He extracts the most perfect sound from it so that the first fiddle can be heard in all his eloquence and beauty.
It is from St. John the Baptizer’s lips that we are given that great statement of faith, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!” This is called the “Agnus Dei,” which is Latin for “Lamb of God.” Isn’t the Agnus Dei wonderful? In that one statement is all the sacramental theology, of how Jesus is the Passover Lamb offered as an eternal sacrifice.  It is the eternal sacrifice which is remembered and lived again when we celebrate the Eucharist.  St. John’s declaration of the Agnus Dei fills all the evangelical and Catholic theology as the proclamation that Jesus was the eternal Lamb offered for your sins and mine.  This proclamation makes what Jesus does on the cross make sense.  Because St. John was willing to live out the life that God has for him, the cross was given meaning and fullness.  His lips were the lips of God.
I am telling all of us that in St. John the Baptizer, the old notion of “be what you want to be” is put flat on its head.  St. John needed to live out the life that God had planned for him so that you and I would understand that Jesus died to save us from our sins.  St. John was brought into this world, not for his purpose, but for God’s purpose which benefits us all.  I tell my children and will tell all of our young people today, “Do not be what you want to be—be what God wants you to be.”  For God has a part in his purpose for each of us to bring all of humanity before him in glory.
Imagine what the most depressed inner city would be like if all the people lived the lives that God wanted us to live.  What if we were to give up the drive for money and live for others?  We might be poorer as individuals, but we would have more people who were richer.  What if people were to overlook the high priced places and use our skills in the depressed inner cities in medicine, law, religion, and other highly sought professions and work in the inner cities rather than the suburbs?  I could guarantee you that if people worked in the right places where God wanted them to work, and did the types of jobs God wanted them to do, the world would be a much better place—and all of humanity would be richer for it.
Of course, it would mean that we would have to sing the note that God gave us, when he wanted us to sing it, and how he wanted us to sing it.  So, I guess, because we drill into our children’s self interest in everything we do, it isn’t going to come anytime soon, I think.  But, I rejoice in St. John the Baptizer.  He gives us some radical conviction.  He lives out his part in God’s purpose and plan.  He puts aside his own desires and interests and is used by God to identify the one who saves all humanity.
That is not the end of the story, though.  The end of the story is that this whole exercise points out one important fact about life: it’s not about us.  Life is not about how much we want, how much we think we need, or how much we gotta have it.  Life is about Jesus Christ.
It is Jesus who was the divine plan, who was with God, and verily was God.  Life is Christ Jesus who, when you trust him, cleanses you of your sins through the waters of baptism and the confession of our faith.  Life is Christ Jesus who fills all things and without him nothing is made that is made.  Life is Christ Jesus as the purpose, the way and the drive behind our actions.  Of whom else can we say, “He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world?”
No one.
In Christ Jesus alone the forgiveness of sins rests so that we can be made holy enough to be holy like our Lord.  Then, in the cleansing of the Lord we are given the gift of eternal life–life forever more—life in Christ.  Life is Christ.
So, my friend, we must all sing the note that we have been given to sing.  When we do, someone may hear and be changed from their selfish ways to ways that honor God and show love for their neighbor.  We must sing as a choir together, each with our part in the Kingdom.  For when we do, just like John, we fulfill the glory of the Lord and his purpose.  Amen?  Amen.
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