SATURDAY AFTER EPIPHANY
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John 3:22-30
Jesus and his disciples went into the region of Judea, where he spent some time with them baptizing. John was also baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was an abundance of water there, and people came to be baptized, for John had not yet been imprisoned. Now a dispute arose between the disciples of John and a Jew about ceremonial washings. So they came to John and said to him, "Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing and everyone is coming to him." John answered and said, "No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said that I am not the Christ, but that I was sent before him. The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease."
John has announced the true identity of Jesus and is overjoyed in his coming. He readily accepts his position as “the best man” and recognizes, through the Holy Spirit, how his position is to remain a witness to the bridegroom, Jesus. John proclaims, “He must increase; I must decrease".
There is something about being in water that I have always loved. When I am submerged in water that supports my weight, it gives me a very freeing sensation, especially when floating. Nothing is pulling on me and my body, lifted up by the water, is completely stress free of gravity. The problems of everyday life seem far away as I completely give myself to the motion of the water and use my every muscle to propel myself forward to swim laps. As my breath becomes heavy from swimming laps, a rhythmic pattern forms enabling me to breath air and maintain a swimmer’s pace. Each stroke, kick and breath has a purpose in the enjoyment of swimming. It seems to be a mindless task just focusing on one thing, moving forward in a straight line. Mentally and spiritually, I am next to nothing, just moving ahead. Exercise can surprisingly be very spiritual and refreshing to the soul. It is an emptying of yourself as you work toward a goal.
Water was used in the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, baptizing to cleanse people’s sins. The submersion in water and the pouring of the Holy Spirit during baptism may resemble the freeing sensation of a swimmer in the water. There is nothing pulling on you, only God lifting you up to him. A workout of swimming is like our daily lives. We have to use everything in us to move forward toward a goal of living with God for eternity. We need to become next to nothing, emptying ourselves out or “decrease”, so that Jesus may increase in us. When we have become next to nothing, I pray we hear our bridegroom and rejoice at his voice, which will make our joy complete.