Friday, June 24, 2016

Birth of John the Baptist

It is John’s special vocation to “prepare the way of the Lord,” to be a “forerunner.” This is a vocation that each of us shares with him and fulfills in very simple and ordinary ways (certainly not as dramatically as John did, and perhaps not so intentionally, but no less prophetically). Whether we are conscious of it or not, Divine Providence has called each of us to play a role in preparing the way of the Lord in one another’s lives.

Surely we recognize that so many people have been instrumental in preparing us to encounter Christ. As Jesus was the human face of the Father, so now he in turn lives in us through his Spirit and we are his visible face to one another. No longer physically on earth, he depends now on our hearts, our hands, to reveal who he is living among us. We all have seen Christ in someone else. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples and us: “Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”

And so like John, we are called to witness to the Light, even without uttering a word. In ways known only to God, we are sent to one another to reveal the living Christ, to prepare one another to receive and embrace more truly and fully the One who is always coming to us—“in the tender compassion of our God, the Dawn breaking upon us.” This happens through the silent witness of our faith, the compelling witness of small acts of compassion and love, and the liberating witness of lives actually lived “in conformity to the Gospel.” We cannot begin to imagine how indebted we are to one another in coming to know more intimately the person of Christ in daily life. What makes Christ truly accessible and present to us if not the Christ-life in each other?

That was the core of the Baptist’s message, and that can be the unspoken message of our lives today. Like John, we have only to be willing to “decrease,” so that the Lord can grow in our hearts and in the hearts of others.

Domenico Ghirlandaio, The Birth  of the Baptist, fresco in  the Cappella Tornabuoni of  Santa Maria Novella, Florence. Excerpts from Father Dominic's homily for today's feast.