The Lesson John The Baptist Teaches Us
Nativity of John The Baptist - Ordinary Time
Today's feast day has an all important lesson to teach us. John the Baptist was obsessed with the Person of his cousin Jesus. His whole life was focused on preparing people for His coming. So today he gives us the opportunity to ask him to help us make Jesus the centre of our lives.
The Church sees the importance of John the Baptist for he is the only person, apart from Jesus and His mother Mary, whose birth we celebrate. Should his birthday fall on a Sunday, his birthday takes precedence over the Sunday liturgy.
The circumstances of John's birth were unusual. God sent His archangel Gabriel to announce to Zachary, an old man whose wife Elizabeth was well past child-bearing age, that his wife was to bear him a boy and he was to call him John. They had long given up hope of ever having a child. How they would have loved one. It was the desire of every couple to have a child. To be childless was a stigma. When told this news by Gabriel Zachary doubted him and for this God struck him dumb.
During Elizabeth's pregnancy Mary, who was carrying Jesus, came to visit her cousin Elizabeth, and, as God promised Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and John was washed clean of original sin. He is the only person, apart from Jesus and Mary, who was born without original sin.
John was well aware of his mission. He was to prepare the people of Israel for the coming of Jesus, the Messiah. This he did by spending years in the wilderness in prayer and fasting. There in the desert he had nothing to distract him. When the time was right he came to the river Jordan and began inviting people to repent of their sins and be baptised. People of every station in life flocked to listen to him - priests, Pharisees, soldiers, tax collectors and ordinary folk. They repented of their sins and were baptized.
One day Jesus came to be baptised and John would not hear of it. He felt he should be baptised by Jesus, but Jesus gently persuaded him to baptise Him and he responded. For doing this John was rewarded by the presence of the Blessed Trinity and hearing the voice of the Father saying. “This is My beloved Son.”
Now his mission was completed. He wanted to wean his disciples away from him and join their allegiance to Jesus. He did this by telling them, 'Look there is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.' John had become so popular. He did not want the limelight for himself. His attitude to Jesus could be summed up in his words, "He must increase and I must decrease."
John the Baptist was the first martyr of Jesus. He pointed out to Herod that he was leading a sinful life. It was wrong for him to take Herodias, who was the wife of another man. This infuriated Herodias and so she plotted his death. And so John gave his life for the truth.
Surely the greatest proof we have of the importance of John the Baptist is the fact that Jesus who is God said, 'Of all men born of women, there is none greater than John the Baptist.' Praise indeed coming from the lips of Jesus!
Now what is John the Baptist's message to you and me? It would be the same as the message he gave to the people of Israel. 'Repent of your sins.' Jesus shows us how this is done. He has given us the beautiful Sacrament of Reconciliation and sadly there are so many Catholics who make little or no use of this Sacrament. They come to Communion every Sunday but it has been years since they have gone to Jesus in this Sacrament to receive His forgiveness and cement their friendship with Him. If you don't believe me, listen to the words of St. Pope John Paul ll. He said, “If you do not go to Confession once a month you are not taking your spiritual life seriously.”
Lord Jesus, may we learn from John the Baptist to love you passionately, to make You the centre of our lives and to remain close to You by the means You have provided in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.