John 3:22-30 (ESV)
John the Baptist Exalts Christ
22 After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. 23 John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized 24 (for John had not yet been put in prison).
25 Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification.26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” 27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”
“He…rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice” (John 3:29)
There is a story about St. Francis de Sales’ conversation with the mayor of his town. “You know, Bishop Francis,” said the mayor, “I have so much to do that I just can’t spend an hour in prayer.” Francis responded, “Anyone as busy as you are needs two hours of prayer!”
For some reason, the mayor looked on prayer as a burden, another weighty obligation to be added to his already packed schedule. But John the Baptist had a different approach. During his years in the wilderness, he discovered that prayer was not a matter of sitting still while God recounted his failings and issued heartless commands. No, John discovered that prayer was a matter of listening for “the bridegroom’s voice” and finding great joy when he heard it (John 3:29).
John is often presented in movies as a fiery, ill-tempered prophet who liked nothing better than castigating the people who came to him. But today’s Gospel reading shows us a different picture. Here is a man of great passion but also of great humility – a man who was eager to finally meet the Messiah and then stand aside so that Jesus could take center stage. He had seen the Lord, and that was enough for him. His joy was complete.
John tells us that God’s voice – the voice that we all long to hear – is the voice of a smiling exuberant bridegroom on his wedding day. It’s a voice filled with eagerness, longing to whisper words of love to his bride. It’s a voice of hope and love, a voice of tenderness and yearning, a voice that brings hope and joy whenever it speaks.
As we listen for the voice of Jesus in prayer, there will be times when we will hear words of direction, words of comfort, words of wisdom, and even words of correction. But no matter what we hear, the words will always be spoken in love.
So take the time today to pray. Quiet your heart. Open your Scriptures. And listen closely. Jesus has something he wants to say to you.
Here I am, Lord, ready to hear your voice. Let your words of truth and love awaken my heart so that I can follow you wherever you lead. Amen.