lunedì 28 novembre 2016


Saint John the Baptist,
figure of the Christian educator

Beside the figure of the Virgin Mary, the time of Advent proposes us to meditate that of St. John the Baptist the precursor of Christ. He announced the imminent coming of the Messiah by his teaching and his testimony of life. His competence was recognized at the point where he was mistaken for Christ. At the same time, he withdrew to let Christ act. In the educator’s profession, competence goes hand in hand with humility. It is a necessity for the trainer, if he wants to be happy in his trade. It is a condition of success compared to those for whom he is responsible.
1.           The educator, a seeker of truth

To be an educator following John the Baptist is to be a seeker of truth; Is to be able to discover the initiative and presence of God. In fact, it is always God who takes the first step, it is He who came to John the Baptist through Jesus.
When John the Baptist sees Jesus coming to him, he will say, "Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world." He welcomes in advance all the mystery of Jesus who will live faithfulness to God the Father even in death and will thus open a breach to allow men to attain forgiveness and the life of God.
The altarpiece by Matthias Grünewald that we can admire at the Unterlinden Museum in Colmar makes John the Baptist the contemporary of the crucifixion. The artist showed him with his finger pointing Christ on the Cross, a suffering Christ, bearing upon him all the suffering and sin of men and thus manifesting the infinite love of God who joined humanity and offered salvation.

2. The educator, a teacher

How did John the Baptist recognize in Jesus the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, the Son of God who was going to offer his life?
For John the Baptist, to account for what he has seen, is not merely a matter of sensibility or emotion; It implements all human capacities. John the Baptist, the ascetic, is not a man to be guided by the ephemeral of human sensibility or public opinion. His testimony is reflected, enlightened by the Word of God.
The designation he uses for Christ, the "Lamb of God," reveals his great culture and deep knowledge of the Scriptures. Permeated with the Word of God, John the Baptist has surpassed appearances and discovered in man Jesus the presence of the living God who wants to reconcile all men with him.
The educator is first a teacher. John himself conveys a clear and coherent message that is received by the diversity of the people who listenend to him, the Roman soldiers, like the Pharisees.
This teaching has a concern for the total truth which can only be approached in the articulation between reason and faith. If reason does not open itself to faith, it becomes self-limiting and basically takes an ideological position. And if faith does not open itself to reason, it is reduced to a servile submission to commandments or to a purely affective attachment to God. And the faith without reason does not account for the incarnation of the Son of God who assumed our human reason. The Encyclical Lumen Fidei of 2013 speaks of a fruitful interaction between reason and faith (n.32).

2.     The educator, a witness

It is generally thought that being a witness is being seen by others, becoming a star. John the Baptist, on the contrary, tells us that the witness is the one who reveals the presence of Christ.
Saint Augustine in his homily on the Nativity of saint John the Baptist, will say, "It is difficult to distinguish word from voice, and that is why John was taken for Christ. We took the voice for the word; but the voice became known so as not to obstruct the word. "
This path of faith of John the Baptist is more remarkable because Jesus was his cousin or even one of his disciples; He speaks of Jesus as the one who is behind him, who follows him.
John the Baptist acknowledges that in reality he did not know him, that he had to make a path of conversion to really know him. This is a free and responsible act of faith that places Christ at the center of his life. John the Baptist’s life was completely transformed, so he no longer feared any obstacle, nor the wickedness of men, nor even death.

3.     The conditions to become an educator of the truth of Christ

(a) The first step is to accept decentralization
- In relation to one-self
A man of culture, kneaded by Holy Scripture, John the Baptist at the beginning of his journey placed great confidence in human intelligence. It was his period of homo faber, of man betting on his own faculties.
- In relation to ideologies
Saint John the Baptist also entered the movement of the Baptists who invited to conversion to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. Baptism of water was the visible sign of this preparation. In addition, a group of disciples was about to form around him. This success could lead the precursor to fix himself on a precise vision of the coming of the Messiah. The evangelist Saint Matthew gives the contents of his first preaching: "The axe is ready to cut down the trees at the roots ... He has his winnowing shovel with him to thresh out all the grain ... (Mt3).
John the Baptist might be tempted to believe more in him and in his idea that in God, he might be tempted to believe that he would change society. He could come to take the place of the Messiah, especially since the people wondered about his identity. It was for John, the stage of ideology.
At this stage, we say to ourselves: "I have intelligence, youth. I can do it. God will help me; but he is especially lucky to have me and to work with me. "

(b) It is above all to be open to humility
But in prison, St. John the Baptist asks about Jesus: "Is he the one who is to come, or are we to expect another? "
The way Jesus fulfilled his mission did not correspond to the severity of his warnings.
Where John the Baptist foretold divine justice, Jesus proclaimed his mercy. John the Baptist was put to the test on the very content of his preaching, on his own mission. It was the night of faith for him. His faith was tested.
John will send a delegation. He does not want to challenge Jesus, nor even ask him for explanations, but simply to find light and strength. He indirectly asks Jesus to help him stay true to his mission. And Jesus does not hesitate to answer this request by giving him the signs: "Go and tell John what you hear and see."
His poverty of heart will be rewarded. By turning humbly toward Christ, he will be able to receive from Him, light and strength. Saint John the Baptist will be able to continue his mission of forerunner, not simply by the word but by the testimony of his life, until conforming to Christ by his own death.

John the Baptist invites the educator to articulate intellectual work to prayer in order to maintain its mission in its ultimate goal of truth. Together, prayer and intellectual work allow the educator to open himself to the Holy Spirit sent by Jesus on the day of Pentecost.  Like a tongue of fire, the Holy Spirit enlightens the intelligences and like a breath it fortifies the hearts.

If St. John the Baptist can be a model for the Christian educator, he is also a help today and we can also ask him for his prayer to fully enter into the truth of Christ, Master and Lord of the Universe.
+ Vincent Dollmann

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