Eli and John the Baptist were remarkable men. Both had prestigious responsibilities that made them a center of attention. Eli was tasked with tending the Ark of the Covenant, and the only person allowed to enter the Holy of Holies where dwelled the presence of God. John attracted hundreds of followers by proclaiming a message of hope and repentance.

But when the time came, both men had the freedom to step aside in order to let someone else shine. When Eli realized that God was speaking to a young boy in his charge, Eli did not grow jealous and say, “Lord, why Samuel and not me?” And in today’s Gospel (Jn 1:35-42), when John saw Jesus walking by, he said, “here is the Lamb of God,” knowing that his own disciples would leave him to follow Jesus.

True Christian humility means a willingness to step down—or to step up—in response to whatever will serve the greater glory of God.

—Fr. Barton Geger, SJ, is a research scholar at the Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies and Assistant Professor of the Practice at the School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College.




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