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Nativity of John the Baptist, June 23-24, 2012

posted Jun 24, 2012, 2:08 PM by fathermark@stmaryshuntingburg.org

            Today, we celebrate the feast of the "Nativity" of St. John the Baptist.

... which means that today we celebrate the birth ... the "birthday" ... of St. John the Baptist.

And so, we are reminded in today's Gospel of the miraculous events surrounding the Baptizer's birth: the promise of an angel that his parents—really, too old to have children—the promise that they would have a son ... the father struck dumb (unable to speak) because of his disbelief ... the miraculous opening of his mouth ...  the wonder and fear of their neighbors.


            All of these details, of course, make for an interesting story ... but they have a purpose.

The miraculous events around the birth of the Baptist tells us that he was a person "set apart."

The story of the "nativity" of John the Baptist is really a story about a man with a mission ... a man with a task ... a man with a God-given task.

John the Baptist was a man born with a mission – and that mission was to point to Jesus.

In early Christian art, John the Baptist is often shown next to Jesus, pointing to Jesus.

Years after his birth, John would be baptizing in the Jordan River ... and from among the crowds of people who were flocking around  him, John would recognize Jesus: "Behold the Lamb of God."

"Behold the Savior."

And this was the mission for which John was born: to point to Jesus ... to pick Jesus out of the crowds and to make him known to the people around him.


            But John the Baptist is not the only "man with a mission" that we meet today.

He's not the only one who, from his birth, was set apart by God for a special task.


            In the first reading, we hear the great Old Testament prophet Isaiah say:

"The Lord called me from birth ...before I was even born ... while I was still in my mother's womb, he gave me my name."

"God made me a polished arrow" – which means that God made him to head straight for the target.

The prophet Isaiah was a man born "with a mission" .... mission to call the people of Israel back to the Lord.

The people had all but forgotten the Lord ... they were worshipping false gods ... and the True God called Isaiah to call them back to him.

He was a man with a purpose.


            And in the second reading, yet a third person called by God for a mission ...:

The Acts of the Apostles reminds us of King David, the young shepherd boy called by God from the pastures to become the great king of Israel.

One day, young David was a simple shepherd boy, out in the fields... and the next day, God sent the prophet Samuel to appoint him King of Israel ... because God wanted David to defeat the giant Goliath, the enemy of the people of God and gather the people of Israel so that they could leave aside pagan gods and worship the one true God in Jerusalem, the Holy City.


            In fact, the Bible is one long story of men and women called by God for mission.

The history of the Church ... and the lives of saints ... the story of God calling ordinary men and women to carry out his purposes in the world.


            And, now, to this list of people called by God for a mission ... is added your name ... and my name ... each of us called from birth for a mission.

No, for us, there were probably no miraculous events associated with our births ...

Maybe our mission is not so great that people will remember us centuries from now ...

But we can be sure that, created by God ... given the precious gift of faith ... baptized into the life of the Church ... most of us, filled with the Holy Spirit at Confirmation ... and here taught by God's Word ... and nourished his Body and Blood ...

Make no mistake: You and I are people with a God-given mission in this world around us today.


            Because today ... as much as ever ... the people around us need help to see Jesus in the midst of their busy and cluttered and distracted lives.

Today, as much as ever, people need help to see the false values of the world around us – the false "gods" of money and "success" and selfish pleasure.

Today, people still need to be defended from people who would mistreat them, abuse them, disrespect them.


            OK, you and I aren't John the Baptist.

We aren't the prophet Isaiah ... or King David ... or any of the great saints ...

But the important difference between us isn't when or where or how we were born ...

The important question for us is:

Will we accept our mission ... as they accepted theirs?

Will we be God's agents and instruments and heralds in our world today ... as those great saints were in their place and time?