Homily of Sunday 24 June 2018 : Birthday of John the Baptist
Imitating John the Baptists virtues: humility courage and faithfulness
Today, the Church commemorates the birthday of John the Baptist. His birth marks a marks a turning point in the history of salvation. He is considered the last of the Old Testament prophets and the beginning of the New Testament prophets.
John the Baptist was the popular forerunner of Jesus. He acts as the precursor – the one that came to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah. His birth brings joy not only to the family and the Jewish nation in particular but to the entire humanity. The name he is given is John and not Zechariah because his role transcends familial history and traditions. Every Christian like John the Baptist has a vocation to be a harbinger of the Good News.
On the day of his birth people wondered: ‘What will this child turn out to be?’ they wondered. The Gospel of today tells us that the hand of the Lord was with him. He grew up and his spirit matured. He became one of the most courageous and faithful prophets to ever exist. The personality of John the Baptist looms very large in the Gospel narratives. Apart from preparing the way of the Lord (Lk 1:76), he is the voice that preaches repentance in the wilderness (Mt 3:1-12); He had the privilege of baptizing Jesus (Mt 3:13-17); he came with the spirit of Elijah (Mt 17:13), etc. His courage will lead him into a fiery condemnation of Herod’s immoral acts which will eventually cost him his freedom and his life. That is the ultimate price to pay for being a preacher of the Gospel, a Christian.
He remained faithful to his calling even to offering his life and giving his head in a little girl’s plate. It must mean that the fidelity that God promises his prophets may be for eternity and not prevention from physical harm or death. We are called today to free ourselves from our morbid fear of death, which often paralyses us from speaking and acting prophetically.
One thing to learn from John the Baptist is his humility. He would always reiterate his lowly position in the face of Jesus. John is only a messenger sent to prepare the way of the Lord. He uses the metaphor of the bridegroom and his attendants to depict his relationship with Jesus. The bridegroom’s attendant is happy just by hearing the voice of the bridegroom. As the one that comes from heaven, Jesus has the full authority of God. And anyone who believes in his words will have entry into the kingdom of God. But there are some questions for reflection. Can one compare the humility of John with that of any modern day “man of God?” Can there be a combination of power and humility again among us? Is any of the so-called modern day miracle workers ready to accept the authority of the other? Can such people claim to be messengers of the same God as John the Baptist? As we aspire to be Children of God we must emulate the qualities of John the Baptist by being humble, courageous and faithful.
Fr. Jude Thaddeus Langeh, cmf
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