Happy Birthday to St. John the Baptist! Remember, today is a solemnity, so make sure to celebrate!
St. John the Baptist is an interesting and all-important character in the Story of Salvation and his life can teach us a lot about what it means to be a faithful disciple of Christ. Most of what struck me about the promises of the Lord to His faithful ones came from the first reading… the one not explicitly about John the Baptist haha.
“I toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength.” Yeah that sounds really good Lord. Very tempting to be obedient.
“Yet my reward is with the Lord … I am made glorious in the sight of the Lord and my God is now my strength.” Woah that sounds more appealing.
“I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” This is really what got me about John the Baptist. He lived a very, very radical life: living in the desert, wearing camel skin, eating locusts and wild honey. When the time of his manifestation to Israel came, he boldly preached the truth revealed to him by God. He dedicated almost his entire life to quieting his human heart and disciplining his body so he could hear the voice of the Lord and respond.
He called the world to a baptism of repentance. This was critical to the coming of the Lord. It’s only when we admit that we have failed God that we recognize our need for a Savior. I don’t need to be saved if I don’t think I’m lost.
I can’t imagine what that would be like now. In order to repent, one must admit that what they’re doing is wrong. We live in such a relativistic culture that moral right and wrong almost doesn’t exist in the eyes of the world. And yet we also have an amazing opportunity right now. The Lord is opening doors for the preaching of the Gospel. In our culture, people don’t like to admit personal sin. My choices are my choices and they’re what’s right for me, who are you to judge that? It can be really hard to invite someone with this attitude to personal repentance. BUT, we see clearly our need for repentance as a society right now. So many people are willing to admit that each one of us is part of a greater problem: political division and racism being the most poignant. So what are we to do as Christians?
The answer to every injustice is the cross. The cross is what restores every wrong to right. God will allow nothing that He can’t use to bring about redemption.
I can’t imagine it was any harder for John the Baptist to preach repentance than it would be for us. Remember, his story ended with his head being chopped off because he told someone important that adultery is wrong (sounds like St. Thomas More whose feast was earlier this week!).
These are a few rather disjointed thoughts… but take them as you will. John the Baptist was able to boldly prepare the way of the Lord because of his prayer and fasting. His prayer and fasting enabled him to hear the truth. His prayer and fasting is what made him know that there was nothing more important than being faithful to God invited him into: the very salvation of the world. Your life isn’t much different. By virtue of your baptism, you’re invited to be an active participant in the redemption of the world. God doesn't need you to save the world, but He want you to help. Jesus invites you to pray, fast, and preach the good news to your brothers and sisters. How will you respond?
-Amanda Benner, Director of Evangelization