YEAR B: HOMILY/REFLECTION FOR THE NATIVITY OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST
TOPIC: ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Gospel: Lk 3:10-18
Message # 468: “Go and Evangelize” (TO THE PRIESTS, Our Lady’s Beloved Sons, Marian Movement of Priests)
1. The Marian Message
a) The Blessed Mother urges all her children to “go and evangelize,” for “the moment of your public witness has come” (letter b). She referred to the Day of Pentecost: “As in the Cenacle of Jerusalem I opened the door so that the Apostles could go out an preach the Gospel, initiating the first evangelization, so also, in this cenacle of yours, I am calling you all to be apostles of the second evangelization” (letter c). She is, therefore, sending all her children on a mission of evangelization: “Go and evangelize.”
b) First, “evangelize this poor humanity which has again become pagan” (letter k), especially the need for “conversion and return to the Lord” so that humanity will once again walk in the “way of grace of grace and holiness, purity and love, harmony and peace.”
c) Second, “evangelize the suffering and divided Church, filled with the smoke of Satan and threatened with the loss of faith and with apostasy” (letter j). Interestingly, she said, “Let the Church once again believe in the Gospel of Jesus.”
d) Third, “evangelize all men, preaching that the reign of God is at hand” (letter m). People have to be made aware that the Lord Jesus is soon to come again, and that is for certain. Hence, she appeals, “throw open the doors to Jesus who is coming!”
e) To this end, she emphasized several points that must be contained in our proclamation: prayer and penance, the practice of all virtues, sincere love and true devotion for the Eucharist, and the need to form and multiply cenacles of prayer, especially family cenacles (letter n).
2. St. John the Baptist
a) St. John the Baptist has two feasts in the Roman Catholic calendar: his birth (June 24) and his martyrdom (August 29). The feasts of saints are usually celebrated on the day of their death, which is their birth into eternal life. In the calendar of the Catholic Church, there are only three feasts, which celebrate the birthday: the birth of Jesus Christ (Christmas), the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary (September 8) and the birth of St. John the Baptist. This is a clear indication of the great importance and vital role of St. John the Baptist in the economy of salvation. At one point in the Gospels, Jesus even praised him by saying, “I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John” (Lk 7:28).
b) St. John the Baptist is the forerunner or precursor of the Messiah. His mission was to prepare mankind for the coming of Jesus. Even the circumstances surrounding his birth already indicated the profound significance of his role in the economy of salvation. His father, Zechariah, a Levitical priest, and his mother were already advanced in years beyond the age of fecundity. His conception, which was clearly of divine intervention, was announced by the angel while Zechariah was offering incense in the Temple. His name, John, was also divinely inspired. He lived a life of total flight from the world, in strict asceticism and self-denial. He was definitely a vivid picture of a prophet of God.
c) Many people may not be aware of this, but John the Baptist was the first witness and recipient of the miraculous power of Jesus. This is recorded in the account of Mary’s Visitation to her cousin Elizabeth. After the Annunciation, Mary has already conceived Jesus in her womb. She rushed to the house of her cousin who was already pregnant with John. When she heard Mary’s greeting, the baby John in her womb “leapt for joy” (cf Lk 1:39-45). John, still in the womb of his mother, must have felt and recognized the presence and power of the Messiah when Mary announced her presence. This is the first recorded miracle of Jesus as witnessed by John – while both were still in the wombs of their mothers. This event is a clear manifestation of the fact that at this very early stage in his life that John is already chosen by God as His prophet, specifically, the forerunner sent to announce the coming of the Messiah.
d) From the start, his role was already clear in the mind of John. He is the precursor; Jesus is the Messiah. He is just the lamp; Jesus is the light, the dawn of salvation. He is the voice; Jesus is the Word. Of what use is the lamp when the dawn comes? Of what use is the voice if there is no word? Hence, John concluded: “He must increase, and I must decrease.” The virtues of humility and obedience were paramount in his life. And this has been the key to his effective mission and true greatness.
e) St. John’s main virtues are humility, courage and fidelity to his mission. He was so humble that he admitted, time and again, that “someone greater than me is coming” and that he was “not worthy to untie the straps of his sandals.” He was courageous that he did not mince words and he spoke the truth clearly and unequivocally. This put him into prison because he denounced the immorality of the king who cohabited with the wife of his own brother. And he was faithful to his mission. He was so popular that he could have easily claimed that he was the Messiah. But he did not succumb to pressure and temptation. He just insisted that he was just “a voice crying in the wilderness” (Jn 1:23). His last and heroic witness to Jesus was his martyrdom: he was beheaded in prison by King Herod.
f) John is called Baptist because he did baptisms. It is called Baptism of Repentance. He called people to repentance. And those who indeed repented came to him and were baptized in the Jordan River. But this baptism did not wash away sins. He himself said it clearly that he baptizes with water only; the One who is to come will baptize “with the Holy Spirit and fire.” His baptism was only an external expression of one’s sincere repentance. He stated his reason for baptizing: “the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel” (Jn 1:31).
3. Points for Reflection
a) The world needs people who are like St. John the Baptist: humble, honest, courageous and dedicated to his mission. Imagine the Catholic Church being led by bishops and priests like St. John the Baptist! Every day, let us always remember to pray for our priests. We need priests who are holy, humble and truly dedicated to the ministry of serving God’s people. The renewal of the Church highly depends on the renewal and holiness of the priests.
b) “What must we do?” This was the question asked by the people to John the Baptist. Repentance and conversion demand concrete action. Definitely we are reminded to go to sacramental confession and receive absolution. But that does not mean that the process of conversion is complete. We have to change and mend our ways. This means that we must have a change of life, from bad to good, from good to better, until we attain genuine holiness. Our sorrow for sins and our decision to live good Christian lives should be shown in our day-to-day life and behavior. We just do not say “I’m sorry.” We have to do something to show that we are really sorry and that we are serious in amending our lives.
c) Fortitude is one of the seven cardinal virtues and also one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is the virtue of all the martyrs. They would prefer to face torture and death rather than offend God. This virtue is very prominent in the life of St. John the Baptist. He was never afraid of any human power. He even told the king in his face that it is not right for him to live with the wife of his brother: it is the double sin of adultery and incest. For doing this, St. John was put in prison, and later beheaded. We have to pray for this gift and virtue of fortitude. Nowadays, we fear so many things: poverty, failure, social embarrassment, sickness, loneliness and death. Due to these fears, we are oftentimes tempted to resort to non-Christian actions and solutions. “Kapag gipit, kahit sa patalim kumakapit!” We would rather turn away from God because we are afraid of so many things. We are afraid to become poor, so we steal or cheat people. We are afraid to fail in our studies and career, so we resort to cheating and illegal means. We are afraid to get sick, so we go to faith healers and the healing “miracles” of false preachers and quack doctors. We can cite a long list of similar examples.
Let us pray for fortitude so that, in face of severe trials in life, we will remain faithful to Jesus until the end of our life.
4. Closing Song: Paghahandog ng Sarili
GUIDE QUESTIONS FOR SHARING IN THE B.E.C.
1. Sa buhay mo ngayon, ano ang iyong higit na kinatatakutan?
2. Batay sa halimbawa ni San Juan Bautista, ano ang mga katangian ng isang tunay na dakilang tao?
3. Maliwanag sa buhay ni San Juan Bautista ang kababaang-loob. Ano ang iyong pag-unawa sa kababaang-loob (humility)?