Saturday after Epiphany
“He must increase, while I must decrease”
Before John the Baptist, we have seen many other great and saint prophets, worthy of God, filled with his Holy Spirit, who announced the coming of the Lord and who testified to the Truth. Nevertheless no one said of them what was said about John the Baptist: “among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist” (Mt 11,11). So why was this greatness sent before the one who is greatness in itself? To bear witness to the Precursor's great humility.
He was so great that one could have easily taken him for the Messiah. Nothing easier...for, without saying anything, it is what those who listened to him and saw him believed...Nevertheless this humble friend of the groom, zealous in defending the honor of the groom, does not want to take the place of the groom, as an adulterer would do. He bears witness to his friend, he recommends to the bride the real groom and he absolutely does not want to be loved in his place because he wants to be loved only in him. “The best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice” (Jn 3,29).
The disciple listens to his master; he stands because he listens, for if he refuses to listen he will certainly fall. What enhances to our eyes John's greatness is that he could have easily been taken for the Christ and nevertheless he preferred giving witness to Jesus Christ, proclaim his greatness and humble himself rather than to be considered the Messiah and deceive himself by deceiving the others. Therefore Jesus rightly so said of him that he was more than a prophet...John humbled himself before the greatness of the Lord so as to deserve that his humbleness be raised by this greatness...”I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals” (Mk 1,7).
Saint Augustine (354-430), Bishop of Hippo