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June 24, 2018 - A Life that Points to The Lamb of God

Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

Scripture Readings

It is not always that the feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist falls on a Sunday. This year it so happens that it does. Generally, Sunday readings always take precedence over most feast day readings. However, John the Baptist is such an important figure in the Bible that the church sets aside the reading of the 12th Sunday of Ordinary time to focus on him. Since the Church intentionally gives John the Baptist this place of honor, let us reflect on his life and message. 

Here are three points for reflection: 

1) May our lives always point toward Jesus. John the Baptist had a very specific role in Salvation History. The specificity of his role is only second to Mary, the mother of Jesus. “Isaiah’s words in today’s first reading perfectly describes the life of John the Baptist: “The LORD called me from birth, from my mother's womb he gave me my name.” The Gospels describe the Baptist’s role as recognizing Jesus, preparing the way of the Lord, and pointing towards Jesus, the Lamb of God. If as Isaiah says, God chose John the Baptist from his mother’s womb for this particular mission, then John accomplished that mission perfectly. As we look back at John’s life we can say, “What a marvelous life!” What was true of the calling and mission of John the Baptist is also true of us. We too are called from our mother’s wombs. We too have a mission. Our lives, too, must always point to the Lord. May the future generation say of us that our life always pointed to the Lord. What a marvelous life is the one that always points to Jesus.  

2) “On Earth As It Is Heaven.” From the description that we have from the Gospels, John lived a very austere and ascetic life. Even by Biblical standards, a man who lived in the desert, clothed himself in camel skin, and ate wild locusts and honey, was not common. Who was this man? What was he doing in the desert? Scripture scholars tell us that John most probably belonged a small ascetic community called the Essenes. The Essenes were a sect of the Second Temple Judaism. Their main goal was piety toward God and the righteousness toward humanity. They engaged in daily ritual purification, focused intensely in serving others in the community, dedicated their lives to controlling their tempers and serving as channels of peace, and strived for purity. This austere and ascetic life was not for its own sake. They truly believed that by living a life of purity they could hasten the coming of Messiah. The dedicated their entire life the hastening of the Kingdom of God. As Catholics, we do not believe that we can do anything to hasten the coming of Christ. However, we do believe that Jesus invites us to pray “Thy Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven!” In fact, the Church is called to be the closest expression of the Kingdom of God on earth. It’s not just the Church. Our families are called to be closest expression of the Kingdom of God on earth. Each one of our mission, like that of John, is to proclaim, “The Kingdom of God is here!” As we celebrate the nativity of John the Baptism, may our lives too proclaim, “The kingdom of God is at hand!” And my we do so, because we genuinely seek for the kingdom of God.  

3) Where else do we meet Christ? John the Baptist was in his mother’s womb when he first encountered Jesus. Jesus too was in Mary’s womb then. And yet John recognized Christ! What are fortunate life! Later, he would recognize Christ as he walked among the crowd. In those days, children and the crowds were not places where one would look for the Christ. John recognized Christ not in the Temple, not among the religious, not among the powerful rulers of the time. He recognized Christ in the most unlikely of places. What a fortunate life! Where else do we recognize Christ? It is easy to see Christ in the Church, in the Eucharist. It is easy to see Christ in the comfortable, the pious, and the religious people. It isharder to see Christ in the poor, in the womb, in children, in those oppressed by violence and war, in the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, in the desperate immigrant families being torn apart. Ultimately, is that not what Christ himself said – Whatever you do for the least of my brothers and sisters, you do it to me? What a marvelous life is the life of the one who recognizes Christ wherever Christ is. 

Today, in this Eucharist, the celebrant will raise the host and say, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” As we recognize and receive Jesus, the Lamb of God, may our lives constantly point to him.

- Fr. Satish Joseph