Today's section of St John chapter 3 returns to the story of St John the Baptist, this time pointing to some perceived competition between his mission and Jesus' on the part of his disciples. St John is an extremely important saint from a Benedictine perspective, so his mission is worth meditation.
22 Post hæc venit Jesus et discipuli ejus in terram Judæam: et illic demorabatur cum eis, et baptizabat. 23 Erat autem et Joannes baptizans, in Ænnon, juxta Salim: quia aquæ multæ erant illic, et veniebant et baptizabantur. 24 Nondum enim missus fuerat Joannes in carcerem. 25 Facta est autem quæstio ex discipulis Joannis cum Judæis de purificatione. 26 Et venerunt ad Joannem, et dixerunt ei: Rabbi, qui erat tecum trans Jordanem, cui tu testimonium perhibuisti, ecce hic baptizat, et omnes veniunt ad eum. 27 Respondit Joannes, et dixit: Non potest homo accipere quidquam, nisi fuerit ei datum de cælo. 28 Ipsi vos mihi testimonium perhibetis, quod dixerim: Non sum ego Christus: sed quia missus sum ante illum. 29 Qui habet sponsam, sponsus est: amicus autem sponsi, qui stat, et audit eum, gaudio gaudet propter vocem sponsi. Hoc ergo gaudium meum impletum est. 30 Illum oportet crescere, me autem minui.31 Qui desursum venit, super omnes est. Qui est de terra, de terra est, et de terra loquitur. Qui de cælo venit, super omnes est. 32 Et quod vidit, et audivit, hoc testatur: et testimonium ejus nemo accipit. 33 Qui accepit ejus testimonium signavit, quia Deus verax est. 34 Quem enim misit Deus, verba Dei loquitur: non enim ad mensuram dat Deus spiritum. 35 Pater diligit Filium et omnia dedit in manu ejus. 36 Qui credit in Filium, habet vitam æternam; qui autem incredulus est Filio, non videbit vitam, sed ira Dei manet super eum.
And the English (Douay-Rheims):
 After these things Jesus and his disciples came into the land of Judea: and there he abode with them, and baptized.  And John also was baptizing in Ennon near Salim; because there was much water there; and they came and were baptized.  For John was not yet cast into prison.  And there arose a question between some of John' s disciples and the Jews concerning purification:  And they came to John, and said to him: Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond the Jordan, to whom thou gavest testimony, behold he baptizeth, and all men come to him.  John answered, and said: A man cannot receive any thing, unless it be given him from heaven.  You yourselves do bear me witness, that I said, I am not Christ, but that I am sent before him.  He that hath the bride, is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, who standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth with joy because of the bridegroom' s voice. This my joy therefore is fulfilled.  He must increase, but I must decrease.  He that cometh from above, is above all. He that is of the earth, of the earth he is, and of the earth he speaketh. He that cometh from heaven, is above all.  And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth: and no man receiveth his testimony.  He that hath received his testimony, hath set to his seal that God is true.  For he whom God hath sent, speaketh the words of God: for God doth not give the Spirit by measure.  The Father loveth the Son: and he hath given all things into his hand.
 He that believeth in the Son, hath life everlasting; but he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
This section deals firstly with the proper humility we should all have, accepting the role we are called to, and desiring no other.
But it also speaks to the role of the Church in propagating the faith through doctrine and the sacraments, as the Catena Aurea selections point out:
"...CHRYS. And see; the very argument by which they thought to have overthrown Christ, To whom you bare witness, he turns against them; You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ; as if he said, If you think my witness true, you must acknowledge Him more worthy of honor shall myself. He adds, But that I was sent before Him; that is to say, I am a servant, and perform the commission of the Father which sent me; my witness is not from favor or partiality; I say that which was given me to say.
BEDE; Who are you then, since you are not the Christ, and who is He to Whom you bear witness? John replies, He is the Bridegroom; I am the friend of the Bridegroom, sent to prepare the Bride for His approach: He that has the Bride, is the Bridegroom. By the Bride he means the Church, gathered from amongst all nations; a Virgin in purity of heart, in perfection of love, in the bond of peace, in chastity of mind and body; in the unity of the Catholic faith; for in vain is she a virgin in body, who continues not a virgin in mind. This Bride has Christ joined to Himself in marriage, and redeemed with the price of His own Blood.
THEOPHYL. Christ is the spouse of every soul; the wedlock, wherein they are joined, is baptism; the place of that wedlock is the Church; the pledge of it, remission of sins, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost; the consummation, eternal life; which those who are worthy shall receive. Christ alone is the Bridegroom: all other teachers are but the friends of the Bridegroom, as was the forerunner. The Lord is the giver of good; the rest are the despisers of His gifts...
AUG. But wherefore does he stand? Because he fails not, by reason of his humility. A sure ground this to stand upon, Whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose. Again; He stands, and hears Him. So then if he fails, he hears Him not. Therefore the friend of the Bridegroom ought to stand and hear, i.e. to abide in the grace which he has received, and to hear the voice in which he rejoices. I rejoice not, he said, because of my own voice, but because of the Bridegroom's voice. I rejoice; I in hearing, He in speaking; I am the ear, He the Word. For he who guards the bride or wife of his friend, takes care that she love none else; if he wish to be loved himself in the stead of his friend, and to enjoy her who was entrusted to him, how detestable does he appear to the whole world? Yet many are the adulterers I see, who would fain possess themselves of the spouse who was bought at so great a price, and who aim by their words at being loved themselves instead of the Bridegroom.
CHRYS. Or thus; The expression, which stands, is not without meaning, but indicates that his part is now over, and that for the future he must stand and listen. This is a transition from the parable to the real subject. For having introduced the figure of a bride and bridegroom, he shows how the marriage is consummated; viz. by word and doctrine. Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. And since the things he had hoped for had come to pass, he adds, This my Joy therefore is fulfilled; i.e. The work which I had to do is finished, and nothing more is left, that I can do..."
The Gospel also reminds us that the path is not easy, nor will it be universally accepted:
"CHRYS. He means not here, that to believe on the Son is sufficient to gain everlasting life, for elsewhere He says, Nor every one that said to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. And the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is of itself sufficient to send into hell. But we must not think that even a right belief in Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is sufficient for salvation; for we have need of a good life and conversation. Knowing then that the greater part are not moved so much by the promise of good, as by the threat of punishment, he concludes, But He that believes not the Son, shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him. See how He refers to the Father again, when He speaks of punishment. He said not, the wrath of the Son, though the Son is judge; but makes the Father the judge, in order to alarm men more. And He does not say, in Him, but on Him, meaning that it Will never depart from Him; and for the same reason He says, shall not see life, i.e. to show that He did not mean only a temporary death!
AUG. Nor does He say, The wrath of God comes to him, but, abides on him. For all who are born, are under the wrath of God, which the first Adam incurred. The Son of God came without sin, and was clothed with mortality: He died that you might live. Whosoever then will not believe on the Son, on him abides the wrath of God, of which the Apostle speaks, We were by nature the children of wrath."
St John's Gospel plays heavily on the image of Christ as bridegroom of the Church. In this section, St John the Baptist is the 'friend of the bridegroom' preparing the way for the nuptials through the call to repentance, and testifying to the truth of who Jesus is.
The Gospel presents to us the classic pattern for evangelization.
St John the Baptist attracted interest not because he does good works in service of the poor, but because of his stark asceticism and powerful message that we are all sinners, and we all need to be converted. Only following that preparation does he point to the prophesies of who Jesus is, and use lend the authority of his ministry to attest to him.
The next part of this series, with notes on the first section of Chapter 4 of St John's Gospel, can be found here.