Isaiah 49: 1-6 Acts of the Apostles 13: 22-26 Luke 1: 57 -66
As is its practice whenever June 24th falls on a Sunday the Church steps aside from its normal routine of Scripture readings and prayers for the Sundays of the year to recall the birth of John the Baptist. In different stories in the Gospels, John the Baptist is introduced to us. He is a relative of Jesus of Nazareth. Later on, after he grows up, he comes out of his life in the desert to preach repentance. He prepares the way for Jesus. He baptized Jesus. He sends his followers to Jesus to be assured that Jesus was the one who had been expected. When John is certain of this, his work was completed. He had performed his task in life. He was then put to death as a result of speaking the truth to Herodt. These are the accounts that we read of John theBaptist in the Scriptures.
John played an important role in the announcement of the Kingdom of God, the making known of God’s abiding presence in which we are all called to participate. Yet John then passed from the scene. At one point, in fact, Jesus says that those who embrace Jesus’ teaching are more important than John. This declaration ought to make us stop and think. Here is someone completely dedicated to his job, who was not afraid to speak out, even condemning Herod and risking his own life. Yet we are told that the least born into the Kingdom of God is greater than John.
To be born into the Kingdom of God, to be instrumental in making the reality of God both known and experienced by us and through us, must certainly involve a great deal. It must involve more than simply having the name or the title of Christian. It is a life, a way of life, a dedication to revealing the good of God’s love and presence.
What we see in John is his complete commitment to making known that the Lord was coming. He placed himself at the disposal of the Lord. All of his life was given to this task. So that if we who are followers of Jesus, who are said to be greater than John, what is expected of us?
The example of John, and especially the comparison Jesus makes, is a genuine challenge to us. It makes demands of us that we often do not want. It means that our focus is not to be on ourselves. It requires a way of thinking and acting that is a continuation of the ministry of Jesus, a constant choice being made in our lives to reveal God’s goodness, to make known the love of God in the world, and in how we live out our daily lives.
This all contradicts so many of the values which our world pits forth with its emphasis on power, on material goods, on self interest. We might say that we are neither powerful or wealthy and have little chance to be so, but the focus on self-interest, on selfishness, can often creep into our thinking. Using others, hurting others, judging others in word or thought, these are indications of a selfishness that is so contrary to one who is to be born into the Kingdom of God. They are contrary to being one who can know of the tremendous gift of God’s love that is evidenced in the redeeming action of Jesus Christ. Selfish choices do not reveal the goodness and love of God.
The reminder of John the Baptist is made today so that his example may challenge us to proclaim, by lives and by actions in our ordinary every day world, that the key to appreciating fully the gift of life that has been given to us is to reveal the loving kindness of our good and gracious God.