Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The Nativity of John the Baptist

The Church celebrates the Birth of Saint John the Baptist because there is something indispensable and timeless about his role. Cardinal DaniĆ©lou speaks of “a certain permanence in John’s ministry, the ministry of preparation.” He goes so far as to say: “We may be sure that the final coming will also be prepared by John.”

So what might this “ministry of preparation” mean for us today? Perhaps above all, John models for us and predisposes us to experience the happiness found only in Jesus Christ. With good reason, this began in the darkness of his mother’s womb. We all begin in darkness, and often live moments plunged in darkness of one kind or another. The Good News is that at Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, Jesus draws close to John, who then leaps for joy in his mother’s womb. The Baptist pierces earth’s darkness with his silent proclamation to us: Someone is coming for you! Keep your attention fixed on what your heart was made for: Jesus Christ! For you will recognize him when he comes—instantly, leaping with joy like David dancing before the Ark of the Covenant.

The Dominican Peter John Cameron wrote a reflection last year which personalizes the meaning of today’s feast for me:

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist is a sacred reminder of the fact that every day I need born in my life:

·         someone who leaps with joy before the presence of the Lord, who makes me want to live my own relationship with Jesus with greater ardor;

·         someone to prepare the way of the Lord and to give me knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of my sins;

·         someone who turns my attention away from my distractions and preconceptions so that I will behold the Lamb of God as the true desire of my heart;

·         someone who is a burning and shining lamp whose radiance gives light to my path and courage to my heart, making me want to live for others. . . .

Each of us is called to prepare the way of the Lord to one another, in ways mostly unknown to us, unintentionally, and yet no less prophetically. This unconscious “ministry of preparation” engenders hope in others. That, I believe, is its particular gift.

The Good News today is that the Birth of John was a birth of new hope. Something the whole world needs at this time of great suffering and an unknown future. Cardinal DaniĆ©lou captured this “birth of new hope” beautifully when describing John: “While he was still a baby in a cradle, something was already shining on John’s face: the dawn of that sun which was going to rise above the horizon and outshine the sun of the first creation.” I think that is true of anyone, and everyone, who has been instrumental in “preparing the way of the Lord” to us. 

The Birth and Naming of Saint John the Baptist, Sano di Pietro, Italian, Siena 1405–1481 Siena, 1450–1460, Tempera and gold on wood, 9 5/8 x 18 7/8 in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Used with permission. This morning's homily by Father Dominic.