“I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” John 1:26–27
These are words of true humility and wisdom. John the Baptist had quite a following. Many were coming to him to be baptized, and he was gaining much notoriety. But his notoriety did not go to his head. Instead, he understood his role of preparing the way for “the one who is coming.” He understood that he needed to decrease as Jesus began His public ministry. And, thus, he humbly points others to Jesus.
In this passage, John was speaking to the Pharisees. They were clearly envious of John’s popularity and questioned him about who he was. Was he the Christ? Or Elijiah? Or the Prophet? John denied all of that and identified himself as one who is not worthy to even untie the sandal straps of the one who is coming after him. Thus, John sees himself as the “unworthy one.”
But it is this humility that makes John truly great. Greatness does not come by self-elevation, or self-promotion. Greatness comes solely by fulfilling the will of God. And, for John, the will of God was to baptize and to point others to Him Who was coming after him.
It’s also important to note that John said to the Pharisees that they “do not recognize” the one who is coming after him. In other words, those who are filled with pride and self-righteousness are blind to the truth. They cannot see beyond themselves, which is an incredible lack of wisdom.
Reflect, today, upon your calling to imitate these virtues of St. John the Baptist. Do you see your duty in life as one that is singularly focused upon putting your eyes on Christ and pointing others to Him? Do you humbly recognize that it is Jesus Who must increase and that you are nothing more than His unworthy servant? If you can seek to serve the will of God with complete humility, you also will be truly wise. And like through John, many will come to know Christ because of your holy service.
Lord, fill me with true humility. May I know and believe with all my heart that I am unworthy of the incredible life of grace You have given to me. But in that humble realization, give me the grace I need to serve You with all my heart so that others may come to know You through me. Jesus, I trust in You.