A Signpost – this is what St John the Baptist was called by St Bernard of Clairvaux. The word could be seen as limiting, reducing. However, of fundamental importance , to whom or to what St John was pointing. Each of us points to someone, refers to someone with our lives, refers to certain values and persons. We say of someone that he carries out his father’s principles, of another that he is well-behaved. Something or someone is indicated by their actions by a good doctor, an honest civil servant. We like to leave and receive signs indicating our kindness and remembrance: postcards, photographs, flowers, small souvenirs. Saint John the Baptist was pointing to the Messiah and His nearness. For its mission, it had to be transparent. Hence the penitential way of life, which did not allow those listening to him to dwell on anything that did not relate to the mission, to pointing. He performed in the desert.
The Evangelist is not concerned with defining precisely the geographical area in which John the Baptist was active. The desert – a well-known place of God’s manifestation in salvation history. It is also in the desert that the Messiah will be revealed, whom the Spirit, after his baptism in the Jordan River, will lead out into it . John “preached the baptism of conversion”. The proximity of the Messiah, indicated by John, demanded a response – -conversion, the outward sign of which was the washing in the waters of the Jordan. Reading the signpost that was John the Baptist forced clear choices. Clear choices in times of compromise and blurred meanings can be a real cleansing for us. What is needed first is to find the desert of silence in which God reveals Himself, even if the silence sounds like a reproach, a reminder of someone’s wrongdoing or a reminder that I am not a sign pointing to Christ, but to the non-values. The washing away of sins in the sacrament of reconciliation must not be missed either.
And finally, agreement to accept a mission, a vocation that will be my pointing to the Messiah. It will be the acceptance once again of all our tasks, however simple, everyday, perhaps for many years forming my path of life, at which I am to be a signpost, pointing towards Christ.