Follow John to find the Light of the World, the promise of hope

Sister Rachel Bergschneider, OSB

Living the Word / By Sister Rachel Bergschneider, OSB

Third Sunday of Advent/Dec. 12

Zephaniah 3:14-18a; (Psalm) Isaiah 12:2-3,4,5-6; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:10-18

John the Baptizer is an intriguing figure in the Gospels. There is not a great deal said about him or from him, but he stands out as one who had a unique personality and message to communicate.

He is a man of the desert soil, a voice in the wilderness, not accustomed to a comfortable life. His voice is insistent, challenging, unnerving. John preaches how to live righteously, with integrity and generosity.

John’s baptisms are poignant, telling those being baptized to share their lives and blessings with people who have less. “The one who has two coats, let him share with the one who has none; and the one who has food, let him do likewise.” To the tax collectors: “Collect no more than is appointed you.”

John’s statements made while he was baptizing, link the ritual and the moral. It is not enough to be baptized; the commitment of baptism is intended to bring about transformation that obliges the baptized to treat others with dignity and respect.


This man, John, was a lamp; in Jesus’ words “a burning and shining lamp.” As John Shea writes, “The implication is clear: the lamp is a torch through the darkness to find the Light of the World. As the lamp comes closer to the Light, its radiance is overwhelmed. It is in the presence of a stronger shining. It decreases as the Light increases. Yet there is no comparison. . . . The lamp and the Light meet. Follow John and find Jesus.”

We follow the Lamp of John who points the way. John is a step ahead of us, his lamp sweeping the ground so that we do not stumble. John brings us, “at our own pace, to the entrance of the cave, the cave where Light resides.” There we find the Light of the World, the promise of hope.

Again from John Shea: “The revelation of Christ lights a way out of darkness, the godless place, the realm of hardened hearts, and the night of impenitence.”

We discover the brilliance of a new day where Integrity and Justice shine forth and call us to peace — peace in our own heart and peace in the world.

In the words of G.K. Chesterton, “Christmas is rather something that surprises us from behind, from the hidden and personal part of our being; like that which can sometimes take us off our guard. . . . It is as if one had found an inner room in the very heart of his own house, which he had never suspected; and seen a light from within. It is as if he found something at the back of his own heart.” Perhaps it is the discovery of the Light of Christ.

My hope is that Christmas surprises you with an inner room where Christ is shining bright!

SISTER RACHEL BERGSCHNEIDER, OSB, is a member of the Sisters of St. Benedict of St. Mary Monastery, Rock Island. She ministers at the Peoria County Jail, serving as a facilitator in the Jobs Partnership program.

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