22 Jun THE NATIVITY OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST
Dear OLPH Family and Friends,
Today we have an unusual break with the progression of Ordinary Time. However, the Saint whose birth we celebrate is truly one of the most unusual creations of God. Jesus in fact said that there was no greater man born of woman. (Mt 11:11) John the Baptizer was the cousin of Jesus who was to point out the way of Jesus as Lord and Messiah. He is the one who said that Jesus must increase and he must decrease. The Church chose this particular time to celebrate John the Baptist when the days are at their longest and by the time we celebrate the birth of Jesus, they will be their shortest. With the birth of Christ the days will begin to lengthen again.
John the Baptist is outranked only by the Blessed Virgin Mary. John’s stature, like that of Mary, results from his special role in salvation history. While Mary is the mother of Jesus, John, was his herald and forerunner. John’s birth, like that of Jesus, was heralded by the angel Gabriel. Jesus was born of a virgin, while John was born to a barren woman of advanced age.
Given all the special signs surrounding the child, John’s birth provokes a certain amount of wonderment. His father, Zechariah had been silenced for doubting Gabriel’s prophecy concerning the child. At the naming of John, he recovered his speech and began to praise God. No wonder the neighbors became fearful and talked about the birth throughout the hill country. It is normal for any parent or relative to wonder after the birth of any child, “What, will this child be?” But how much more so when it is already clear with this child that “surely the hand of the Lord was with him” (Lk 1:66)
John the Baptist rightly can be regarded as the last of the Old Testament prophets and the first of the Christian martyrs. John is a model of radical simplicity, as well as of single-minded passion and courageous faith in the service of doing God’s will.
Sunday, I will be flying to Chicago for the meeting of the Alumni from the North American College. I expect to return late on Wednesday. The College has a great program planned but I especially look forward to seeing priests from my era and to meet with the younger alumni as well. Stay well in my absence and know that you will be in my prayer!
May God bless, preserve and keep you!