- Category: Homilies for 2012
- Published on Sunday, 24 June 2012 20:03
- Written by Fr. Rick Spicer
- Hits: 194
Today we put aside what would have been the 12th Sunday of Ordinary time to celebrate the birth of John the Baptist. The church does so for good reason for his birth marks the dawning of God's salvation. Now, you might be thinking, "Didn't that begin with Jesus?" On the other hand, you could be thinking, "Of course, I just heard Paul say, 'John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.'" Perhaps you are even humming to yourself, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord," which was the focus of John's ministry and life.
We celebrate his birth at the summer solstice when the sun is at its highest point in the sky and we celebrate the birth of Jesus at the winter solstice. Pointing to Jesus, John says elsewhere in scripture, "I must decrease so that he may increase." The dynamic of decrease and increase can be considered the mission of all Christians. The vocation of every Christian in fact is to let the light of Christ shine forth to all the world and to bear witness to the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us. But that is a mission we are not always inclined to accept.
We live in a culture that, despite the claims of our Constitution, challenges our freedom to boldly live our faith and proclaim the truth. Thus, pointing to Christ is no easy task nor has it always been. Based on what we learn, beginning with John the Baptist, the Church continually challenges us to place God first in our lives, then others. Our consumer oriented culture, on the other hand, invites us to place our needs first. Getting over our addiction to self and being attached to all that we are and do and have gets in the way of fully grasping the message of truth which John was the first to proclaim.
John the Baptist was the last of many biblical prophets before Jesus arrived on the scene. We use that term rather loosely to refer to anyone who has made an educated or simple guess about the future. Sports reporters are called prophets when they correctly predict the outcome of a game. Political hacks are called prophets when elections turn out as they expected.
In scripture, however, prophets are not blessed with crystal balls that foretell the future. They are given the mission of proclaiming God's truth, which is timeless because God is timeless. Prophets remind their listeners of what truth is and isn't. John was being prophetic when he told King Herod that he was a sinner for marrying Herodias after killing her first husband. That was the truth and John lost his head for speaking up.
Truth is not necessarily something that people want to hear. On Friday, we celebrated the feast of two martyrs: John Fischer and Thomas More. Both opposed the King of England, Henry VIII, when he declared himself as the supreme head of the Church. He did not want to hear that he was committing adultery by marrying Anne Boelyn. He demanded that all the bishops and nobles sign the Act of Supremacy, declaring that the King had complete authority over the Church. These two saints refused, thus they were imprisoned. When they would not recant, they were beheaded. They died because they were prophets, committed to God's truth.
Prophets are not limited to the distant path. A movie came out recently, entitled For Greater Glory, that depicts St. Christopher Magallenes who was martyred for opposing laws of a repressive Mexican regime. More recently, Shahbaz Bhatti, a practicing Catholic was murdered in Pakistan because he had called for changes in that country's laws which persecuted non Moslems.
Fortunately we live in a country where people are not being put to death for their faith, but one must still wonder if we have the freedom to practice our faith. When the government says that we must do what our faith forbids us to do, or when it says we cannot do what our faith mandates us to do, then we too might be called to have the courage of John the Baptist and other prophets and speak up for God's truth.
There have been times in my priestly ministry when I have had to tell people that their lifestyle is detrimental to their future. Since their choices provide them with immediate gratification, they refuse to consider that these choices, if immoral, could deprive them of eternal happiness. I have often counseled couples that certain choices, long considered acceptable by our culture, can lead to deep problems, spiritually, emotionally and physically. I can assure you that they don't always want to hear it. They would rather that I lie to them, or overlook what they are doing.
And I am not alone. Archbishop Sartain has angered many Catholics in Western Washington with his stance on Referendum 74 yet he knows that he must speak up for the truth. We are called to follow the example of John the Baptist and proclaim the truth, even if it is unpopular.
Undoubtedly many of you have gotten into a squabble or two or ten with family members or friends when you mention that a certain lifestyle is not proper in the sight of God. Certainly, if you told your children that something which other kids are doing is wrong, you have had a fight on your hands. Good parents put up the good fight as they know that in the long run, God's truth always wins.
As Christians, at our baptism, we "put on Christ." As a priest, I was told that I am serving in the person of Christ. After 26 years of priesthood, I see my life possibly as "another John," pointing to Christ and preparing the way for Christ to enter the lives of others. But I am not alone. That really is the mission of every Christian. We are all being called upon by God to become strong in faith, to speak with courage against evil and to do our part in preparing the way of the one who is to come.