June 24, 2007 St. John the Baptist - Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary C
Readings: Isaiah 49: 1-6; Acts 13: 22-26; Luke 1: 57-66
JOHN THE BAPTIST played an exceptional role in the history of God's people. He acted as the bridge between the Hebrew and Christian Testaments. He basically belongs to the former, was present at the beginnings of the latter, and yet he died before Jesus had completed his work and before the Church came into existence.
Jesus praised his greatness but at the same time said that even the least in the Kingdom was greater than he. While he knew and proclaimed Jesus as the one that all were waiting for and the thongs of whose sandals he was not worthy to loose, he never knew Jesus as his Risen Lord, a privilege granted to the very least of the baptized.
His primary title is Precursor. His mission was to go ahead of the Messiah and proclaim his coming. As he himself modestly said, Jesus must increase while he himself must decrease. The success of his mission would eventually make him redundant. And that is still the role of the missionary today - to plant the church and then withdraw, leaving it in the hands of the new local community.
John was the last and in some ways the greatest of the Hebrew Testament prophets. As the preface for today's Mass says he was chosen "from all the prophets to show the world its redeemer, the Lamb of sacrifice". It was he, who in John's gospel, pointed out Jesus to his disciples as the "Lamb of God".
Apart from preaching a message of repentance and conversion to the large number of people who came to hear him, he "baptized Christ, the giver of baptism, in waters made holy by the one who was baptized".
He is presented as a man of total honesty and integrity but also a man of loyalty, courage and authenticity. Perhaps it was this which attracted so many to come and hear him. And because of this he ultimately lost his life when he denounced King Herod who had married his brother's wife. He was "found worthy of a martyr's death, his last and greatest act of witness to your Son".
John the Baptist's life has a special meaning for all of us. We are, through our baptism, also called to be precursors of the Lord. Our baptism imposes on us an obligation to share our faith and to give witness to the Way of Jesus, both in word and action. There is no other way by which the average person can come to know and experience the love of Christ.
Let us ask John the Baptist today to help us; by the way we live our lives, to clear a path which will draw people closer to knowing and experiencing Christ. We need sometimes to be “politically incorrect”, to be faithful to Jesus Christ. We need sometimes to be able to name evil as evil and to avoid deceptive “political politeness”.
Thomas More “I die the loyal servant of the King but God’s first”.
We need some courage and examples of loyalty …
We are very often searching for comfortable and easy Catholicism but the people like John the Baptist and Thomas More show us that faith and loyalty to God cannot be taken at ease.