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View the Webcast to listen to the most recent homily.
 
June 24, 2018 

Solemnity of the Birth of St. John the Baptist

 

It is rather strange to be celebrating the Feast of the Birth of Saint John the Baptist on a Sunday in the heat of the summer. He is that tough-talking and wild-looking prophet who appears in the Gospel readings about a week after Santa Claus appears in the stores. His birthday celebration seems a bit unexpected and out of place this Sunday.

 

Zachariah, his father, was also surprised by God's angelic messenger in the Temple: "Do not be frightened," the angel told him. "Your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth shall bear a son whom you shall call John". Because of his lack of trust, he was struck dumb - unable to speak; but after he pondered God's mysterious ways, his obedient naming of his son opened his mouth to proclaim God's praise: “His name is John”.

 

This feast of the birth of John the Baptist is all about appearing and fading away. His sole purpose is to be an announcer for one who is to come, to be the shadow for one who is the light, to fade away so that one greater might appear. This particular date for the celebration of this feast was chosen, not because we know the exact date of John’s birth, but because this date follows the first day of summer. The sun is the brightest this time of the year; and the days are the longest. But it also means that the days will be getting shorter from now until Christmas (or until Dec. 21 to be exact, the winter solstice). You might say that the light of summer is beginning to fade.

 

That is why we celebrate the Baptist, to whom tradition attributes the saying, “I must decrease, so that He might increase”. Like the summer sun, the Baptist saw himself as one whose purpose was to fade away to make room for someone greater to come. John recognized that greatness in the person in Jesus.

 

John preached a baptism of repentance and conversion – a baptism of preparation. He called for a turning around from old ways, a “rooting up and tearing down,” a “destroying and demolishing,” and an acceptance of new ways to “build and plant”.

 

John knew his place in God’s plan. Paul says in the Acts of the Apostles, “As John’s career was coming to an end, he would say, ‘What you suppose me to be, I am not. Rather, look for the one who comes after me. I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of His feet’.”

 

In celebrating John’s birthday, the Church calls us to realize that John’s role in God’s plan is also our role. Each one of us is called to decrease so that Jesus can increase in our lives and in the life of the world.

 

From the very beginning of His public ministry, Jesus proclaimed this theme: “Reform your lives! Change your way of thinking and living!” Jesus’ call to transform our lives and to follow Him are inseparable. He is telling us, “I understand human nature. I know that you are not perfect, but to be My disciple, you must be devoted to the task of bettering yourself. Moving into an ever closer union with God.”

 

To follow Jesus is to work at ongoing change in our lives. To follow Jesus is to let go of everything we have crowded in at the center of our lives that is not of God. Faith is not a one-time emotional experience of “finding Jesus” – Jesus is not lost – we are! Following Jesus – growing in our Faith - is a process of development and growth that stretches out over our entire lives.

 

John the Baptist, the great desert preacher, whose mission it was to announce the imminent coming of the Messiah, needed to prepare himself for the task. To draw into ever closer union with God, he needed to grow up spiritually. And so it was for all the New Testament figures who were called to follow Christ. A prime example is St. Peter. Peter was constantly making mistakes. He was impulsive. He was weak. He even denied Christ: yet Jesus never gave up on Peter because Peter was willing to change.

 

Are we willing to be like John – like Peter? Are we willing to change? To decrease so that the Lord can increase?

 

Decreasing ourselves in this day and age is difficult. Our culture and our society call us to do just the opposite – to be aggressive, popular, to achieve more and to have more. When all we can see is our own self-importance and our own concerns, then all we get is an empty audience.

The world today is in need of more John the Baptists. There are far too many false prophets of prosperity, consumerism and self-service. God is calling each one of us to be his prophets. Are we willing to answer that call?

 

 

 

 
St. Mary of the Assumption Basilica
Basilica of Saint Mary of the Assumption
A Parish Family for the Mid-Ohio Valley since 1838.
506 Fourth Street, Marietta, Ohio 45750-1901
(740) 373-3643    Email: info@stmarysmarietta.org