Advent, “He must increase; I must decrease”

Jesus said there is no man born of woman greater than John the Baptist. (See Luke 7:28 and Matthew 11:11)

St. John the Baptist is one of my favorite saints. There are so many valuable lessons in his life that Scripture starts telling about him even before he was conceived. I find it vitally important to know what the purpose of this man’s life was; this man whom God Himself says there is no man greater.

Matthew chapter 3 flat out tells us he is the one spoken of in Isaiah, “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”

I know I am to learn how to do this, too. This entire Advent season has been an exercise in preparation. So I look to the greatest man whose purpose is preparation for guidance. His theology doesn’t take a book. It takes one sentence.

“He must increase; I must decrease.”

St. John 3:30

The point is not to create an empty shell of nothing. Nature will always fill nothing with something.

“Even nature does not want anything empty, nature does abhor a vacuum, nature comes in. A thousand million more times spiritually, dear sisters, does God come into a created emptiness of ourselves.”

Mother Mary Francis

Every act of obedience is letting Christ, who was obedient even unto death, increase in us.

Every expression of love of God lets Him increase in us because He is love.

And every willful choice of poverty makes room for more valuable things.

As more and more boxes arrive at my door this season, it becomes very obvious I need to take stock of what I own. What needs to stay and what needs to go to make room for better things. But I can’t stop at examining the physical space. We all tend to claim habits, personality traits, pain, and even neurosis as our own. And we don’t even want to give it up; instead, we find ourselves nurturing it, increasing its presence in our lives.

“We really wouldn’t want to keep spiders in the cupboards of the house. We wouldn’t want to keep spoiling food in the ice box, and to watch it and see if it’s there and if it’s gathering more bacteria. But we can do this spiritually, keep these things for my own. This is my hurt, and it’s getting moldier all the time.”

Mother Mary Francis

Decreasing these things, removing them…I think there is a fear that it means brushing them off as if they aren’t real and never mattered. As if we aren’t real and never mattered. But that’s not what I learn from St. John the Baptist. He was the greatest at decreasing, and yet I can see Christ so clearly through him. St. John the Baptist would tell you he wasn’t even worthy to untie the straps of Christ’s sandals, yet Jesus declared there to be no man greater. His entire life, before conception all the way to the last ripple effect, matters.

The goal of Christianity is redemption. To redeem is to exchange. Christ gave us this opportunity because we matter to Him. Let’s take Him up on it and practice decreasing in exchange for His increasing.

“Then we begin to experience the marvel of the paradox that, when He is completely there, then the more I am really myself.”

Mother Mary Francis

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