This weekend we have the privilege of celebrating the nativity of Saint John the Baptist on a Sunday. Most often when a feast day for a saint happens to be on a Sunday, the celebration for that Saint is bypassed. Very few saints would actually “trump” the normally scheduled Sunday liturgy. This, however, is one such weekend. And if we want more proof to just how important this day is, consider this: Saint John the Baptist, is the only other person, besides Mary and Jesus, where we commemorate their births into this world. For all other saints, we celebrate the day they died or their birth into eternal life.
Today’s celebration of the nativity communicates something very important to all of us this weekend: that we are all created out of love by God, that we are to live confident in God’s love for us, and that the experience of God’s love calls us to respond; we are to do something!
Saint John the Baptist, thought precursor to the Lord Jesus, models for us how to live the Christian life.
First, Saint John lived a life of relationship with his creator.- He knew his identity as a son of God and one who was made with intentionality and purpose by his creator. **Sunday: The LORD called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name. He made of me a sharp-edged sword and concealed me in the shadow of his arm. He made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me. ** Saturday: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you. Our first readings speak to us about the intentionality by which God has created each of us. Look at the details: ‘a sharped edged sword’, ‘a polished arrow’, ‘before I formed you I knew you’. Thus, we joyfully pray the psalm: I praise you, Lord, for I am wonderfully made. Friends, God wanted each of us here. Each of us in an unrepeatable example of God’s creative love in the world. Just like John, he created us too with intentionality and purpose.
Two scenes from the Gospels highlight Johns intimate relationship with God. In the Gospels, John identifies himself as the one crying out it in the desert. Before he began his mission he spent time in prayer and fasting. John had a mature relationship with his creator. Do we have this intimate relationship? Many of us would say we desire a more personal, more intimate relationship with our God. Today, in the busy-ness of our lives and all the distractions (esp. technology) we can neglect our time for personal prayer. And so, for all of us who desire this deeper relationship with God, we can imitate John the Baptist – Go to the desert – retreat from the world of distractions, busyness, and technology, and make a space for God in our hearts. Commit to some time of silent prayer and meditation each day.
The other scene of importance is when Mary comes to visit Elizabeth, and John leaps with great joy in Elizabeth’s womb. It is this experience of life-giving joy that indicates an authentic relationship with our God. Pope Francis does not mince words on this, paraphrasing he says, ‘If your not living your Christian life with joy, you’re doing it wrong.’
Finally, Saint John knew that his life was not about him. As you all know, today we are celebrating the nativity of Saint John. But what you might not know is how much meaning is behind the date we celebrate this feast. The other day was the Summer solstice, and now, every day going forward the days will get shorter until December. Then Christ will be born, just after the winter solstice, and every day afterwards will get longer. When people wanted to over glorify Saint John, he responded, I am not worthy to unfasten the Sandals of the feet of the one who is to come – He must increase and I must decrease. Everything about Saint John’s life was meant to prepare the world for Jesus. It wasn’t about him.
Friends, we are called to imitate Saint John the Baptist. Just as he pointed out Christ in a world that so badly needed him, so too we are called to point to Christ in our world today. The only way we can show others to Christ is if we believe that we are sons and daughters before the Father, and have a relationship with the God we hope to make present.
May we follow Saint John the Baptist’s example, and be Saint Johns among the world today, and proclaim, “Behold, that is Jesus. He is the one who has saved you and loved you. Go to him.”
In Christ’s love and friendship,