January 2             

            The late great conductor Leonard Bernstein was once asked which instrument in the orchestra was the most difficult to play. The maestro gave a surprising answer. “Second fiddle,” he said promptly. “I can get plenty of first violinists. But to find someone who can play second fiddle with enthusiasm – that’s a problem. Yet, if there is no one to play second fiddle, there is no harmony.”

            Today’s gospel gives us somebody who played ‘second fiddle’ well, in the person of John the Baptist. John could have chosen to play ‘first fiddle’ instead of ‘second’ – he had his own followers that could have backed him up. He had everything it takes to succeed, to shine, and even to play the role of the Messiah. At one point of his life, John enjoyed a tremendous popularity. In fact, at that time of Israel’s history no one was as popular and respected as John. Now a lesser man than John would have given in to the temptation of exploiting his popularity for his benefit or at least of basking complacently in it and forgetting his special mission.

            But John the Baptist did not make that mistake. Not once did he try to draw attention to himself. On the contrary, he invariably diverted the attention away from himself to the (still unknown) figure of the coming Messiah. He even said, “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.” He was perfectly content to have Jesus take the higher place. He knew where his place was and he always kept it faithfully. At the end of his ministry, he testified about Jesus: “He must increase; I must decrease.” John’s humility is true humility.

            According to Nil Guillemette, humility is the basis for greatness and effectiveness in preaching, teaching or any other work we do for Christ. When we are content to do what God wants us to do and let Christ be honored for it, then God can do great things through us. All the saints were humble. In fact, the holier they were the humbler they were.

            Pangkaraniwan, kapag magbibigay tayo ng awards ang unang bagay na ginagawa natin ay magtakda o mag-set ng mga criteria na pagbabatayan natin para rito. Maghahanay tayo ng magagandang katangian at mabubuting gawain na dapat ay meron ang mga nominees para sa award na ito.

            Subalit, ayon sa isang spiritual writer na nagbigay ng komentaryo tungkol dito, kapag maghahanap raw tayo ng huwarang Kristiyano o model Christian, hindi natin dapat tanungin kung gaano siya kagaling o kahusay o katalino. Ni hindi raw natin dapat tanungin kung gaano siya kabait o kabuti. The question to ask when we search for the model follower of the Lord is how weak a person is. Is he or she weak enough to allow the grace of God to shine through him or her? Is he or she weak enough to allow the grace of God to really come out from him or her?

            Most of us, it seems, become ‘too good’ in a totally human sense that when people look at us, they could hardly recognize or they cannot remember anymore the goodness of God. We can get so ‘good’ with our talents, drawing attention to ourselves, that people admire us and forget the God who gives us these talents.

            The question that we should constantly ask ourselves is: “Are we weak enough to allow the grace of God to shine through us.” Hindi naman natin sinasabi – at lalong hindi natin pinapangaral – na dapat lagi tayong nagkakamali o nagkukulang o nagkakasala. What we are simply saying is that in whatever good we do, whatever good we are able to do, we should be transparent enough to point to the source of our goodness – Jesus Christ.

            Jesus is the only source of everything that is good. John the Baptizer knew that – and that is why he said: “He must increase and I must decrease.” Sana matulad tayo kay Juan Bautista. Let us pray every day of our lives for the grace of humility that we may always focus on what God is doing for us rather than on what we ourselves are doing or achieving. With the grace of God, we will be able to say with Mary in total humility: “The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”

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