Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

The Church's First Prophet

Birth of St. John the Baptist (June 24)

Each year the Church celebrates the life and death of hundreds of saints. Of all the holy days in the Church year, only three mark births: that of Our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ, of His holy and immaculate mother, and of his cousin John. Yet St. John the Baptist is not often anybody's favorite saint. That's odd, because Our Lord said, "Among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist," (Mt 11:11). We speak of a Marian dimension of the Church, that is, the Church's role as a loving mother. We speak of the Church's Petrine dimension, of her authority. We might, perhaps should, also speak of her Johannine dimension - her role as prophet.

Though they sometimes do so, prophets are not people who tell the future. Prophets tell the truth. Prophets speak God's word in season and out, telling people exactly what they do not want to hear. King Herod probably wanted to hear clever riddles and predictions, but from St. John he heard only a stern rebuke: "It is not lawful for you to have her," (Mt 14:4). Herod had taken his brother's wife in lust, and John called him on it. Herod's neice, the daughter of his brother and his wife, danced seductively for him, he promised her anything. At her mother's urging she demanded on a platter the head of the man who would wreck her life. Herod's head was swollen with pride, and so he could not look small in front of the little potentates of Palestine. "A promise is a promise, and what will people think?" his warped conscience must have asked. Thus the only sane man in that Jerry Springer castle, the Baptist, was baptized in blood and his head was made a gift to a gruesome little girl.

Before Jesus began his public ministry, John began his. John's ministry focused on preparing people to receive the Christ when he should come to them. When Jesus' disciples heard of John's fate, they must have known that their master would meet increasing opposition. So it is with the Church. When we reflect on the coming of the Baptist into the world, we should recall the Church's own mission: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them... teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you..." (Mt 28:19-20). The Holy Spirit sent John to prepare the world for the Coming of the Christ. The Holy Spirit sends the Church to prepare the world for the Second Coming of Christ. Immersed in the world and proclaiming Christ, the Church steadily finds herself confronted with greater and greater opposition. Bearing in mind the sort of baptism with which the Baptist was baptized, we will not have to wonder long what sort of baptism might yet await the faithful who follow in his footsteps. What choice do we have, but to tell the truth? For the courage to lead people to truth, in season and out, we need to look constantly, and be configured more and more, to Him who is "the way, the truth, and the life," (Jn 14:6).

St. John the Baptist, pray for us.

No comments: