Good Friends, Great Saints

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Memorial of Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church

John 1:19-28

And this is the testimony of John. When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites [to him] to ask him, “Who are you?” he admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, “I am not the Messiah.” So they asked him, “What are you then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?” 

He said: “I am ‘the voice of one crying out in the desert, “Make straight the way of the Lord,” as Isaiah the prophet said.” Some Pharisees were also sent. They asked him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet?” John answered them, “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.” This happened in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.


Opening Prayer: Lord, transport me to Bethany across the Jordan as I reflect on this prophecy of John the Baptist. 


Encountering Christ:


  1. “Who Are You?”: When John the Baptist was asked this question by the Jews from Jerusalem, he knew how to answer. He told them who he was NOT! He was not the Messiah, not Elijah, not a prophet. Do we know who we are NOT? Of course, we know we’re not God, right? But isn’t that exactly how we act when we take on difficult circumstances without praying first? Or judge someone offhandedly? Or put our agenda before the person’s standing in front of us? Lord, you told Saint Catherine of Siena, “You are she is not; whereas I am he who is.” I am nothing and can do nothing without God (John 15:5).
  2. Who Are You?: “I am a voice of one crying out in the desert…” John the Baptist chose to identify himself to his inquisitors by stating his mission. How would you respond? “I’m the person riding the subway with ashes on my forehead. I am the one quietly saying the rosary on the plane. I am the shopper smiling at strangers in the store for love of you.” In our own way, each of us is called to be a missionary to this modern desert of contemporary society. Our mission is an essential aspect of our identity as Christians: “The missionary who, despite all his or her human limitations and defects, lives a simple life, taking Christ as the model, is a sign of God and of transcendent realities….everyone in the Church, striving to imitate the Divine Master, can and must bear this kind of witness; in many cases it is the only possible way of being a missionary” ( Saint John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio).
  3. The Greatest: John the Baptist was the greatest among those born to women, Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 11:11, “yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he…” Like John, Saints Basil and Gregory, whose feast we celebrate today, were truly great men: best friends, bishops, and doctors of the Church. Saint Gregory said of their friendship, “…our great pursuit, the great name we wanted, was to be Christians, to be called Christians.” He said that the two friends had a single objective: “virtue, and a life of hope in the blessings that are to come…” We were all born to be great (i.e., saints in heaven), whether we’re locust-eating preachers, bishop besties, or ordinary twenty-first century Catholics.


Conversing with Christ: Lord, greatness is nothing more than personal holiness, which leads to sainthood. Help me, Lord, to know and fulfill my mission, whether I am witnessing, like John the Baptist, or striving to be a good friend, in imitation of Saints Gregory and Basil.  


Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will… reflect on my most fruitful friendships. How do they bring me closer to you? I will make an earnest effort to incorporate faith into a conversation with a friend.


For Further Reflection: Learn more about the deep friendship between Gregory and Basil and how their wisdom can inspire us toward spiritual greatness.

Maribeth Harper celebrated paying the last tuition bill for her kids’ college by writing a book to encourage moms who have college-aged young adults, “And So We Pray.” She blogs about parenting adult children at and is a wife of 35 years, mother of four, and grandmother of six and counting.

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