The preaching of John the Baptist about Christ features in our scripture this week. Already the fruits of Christ’s birth are predicted in the first reading in terms of the blessings showered on the exiles returning to Israel. And John prepares the way for the lord, he makes straight a highway for the Christ in the world. Lets all do the same and confess ways we fail in this..
The word John means “the Lord has shown favour”. God certainly showed favour to John the Baptist and he returned that love with interest. That’s why as we gather this Sunday as God’s people the church rightly puts him before us as a model. For he responded to God’s love with total generosity. A cousin of Jesus, born late to Zechariah and Elizabeth, the cousin of Mary, from birth he was chosen to be the prophet who’d prepare the way for Jesus. And he did not fail, but made straight in the wilderness of highway for Jesus, heroically witnessing for God and what’s right unto death.
As such he’s a model of all Christians. For like us favoured of God, he practised what were all called to in today’s readings: “faith and integrity and honour through devotedness”. Like no other John loved and served God with devout integrity, giving his life for the truth. He did this because he had grown steadily in faith from his youth when he went into the wilderness to pray and seek God. But not for himself; he began a mission of baptism to to prepare for the Lord a renewed and holy people.
That’s why Christ called John the greatest of the sons of men and the last and greatest of the prophets. But as John lived up to God’s expectations, so all of us. For we too were anointed to be prophets at baptism. We too promised at confirmation to serve the lord devotedly and lead others to Him, and we too were called like John to wholesome integrity of life and purpose. No straw in the wind of the worldly values of his day John was an uncompromising prophetic voice; telling the truth and calling people back to God and what’s right in the violent immoral age into which Jesus was born. Yet its no different from our’s. Each age needs people to call it from evil to good, from skepticism to faith. We’re to make straight a highway for our God today too.
John died doing that, he wouldn’t compromise with Herod and the powers that be; he called a spade a spade. It is no wonder then that Christ said there’s no greater prophet. His greatness was doubly proved when he finally gave way to Christ in humility and self-denial. Rather than his own fame power or glory he gave himself to humble service of God and humanity wherever it took him. Today we’re to be similar witnesses, to stand up for what’s good and holy, even if it means standing out and suffering. And doing so, we’re asked to have the humility of John also. To know our limitations and place ourselves in God’s hands.
Of course, we may not all have the dynamism of John, he was unique, but each of us can be vital signs of truth and goodness by living out our baptismal calling in this increasingly immoral and secular age. We can all be God’s light in the darkness of a winter world in some way. And such witnesses were never more needed. People need the timeless saving values of Christ now as never before. For all else fades away and leaves us empty here and for eternity but He is lord of light, truth, goodness and happiness both for this world and forever and ever, amen.
So as God’s people, baptised to be present day prophets for Christ lets make our profession of faith with new enthusiasm…
Prayers of the faithful
For our Holy Father and all the consecrated leaders of the church that they may be as faithful witnesses for Christ in our world as John was for his day..
For our civil leaders that they too may make straight in the wilderness of the modern world a highway for God’s justice..
For our youth that they may see that its in giving for God and others that we gain that inner greatness, peace, love and grace that flowers within us at last into everlasting glory..
For ourselves in our homes that we may be examples to our children, relatives and neighbours of faith, love and goodness..
We pray for Nelson Mandela and thank God for the great work he did for oppressed people everywhere, especially in his country..
For the aged, the sick and all those who suffer in body or soul that they may find in their faith, and in our care for them, the consolation, healing and peace of God…
For the dead whose faith is known to God alone that, through our prayers, any lingering remission for sin may be achieved and they may come to their final rest with all the saints in glory..
And we ask all these prayers through Christ, the lord of life, who intercedes for all before the father forever and ever, amen.
A John the Baptist for our times was John Paul 11. He was the voice of God for much of our age. He suffered grievously first under Fascism’s godless creed in Poland. He helped overcome it through his underground church. Later he took up the same cross under Communism, defying its godless dictators and helping to destroy the iron curtain. As Pope he travelled all over, despite being shot by a secular opponent. In his last illness I’ll always remember him on the Vatican balcony struggling to speak to his people, though dead on his feet. No wonder when you go to Rome you find streams of people at his tomb. Lets pray that we’ll be as faithful and generous in God and humanity’s service.Hail Mary