"Today the Church celebrates the birth of Saint John the Baptist, the last of the line of prophets sent to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord. As the Catechism teaches us, 'The coming of God’s son to earth is an event of such immensity that God willed to prepare for it over centuries. He makes everything converge on Christ; all the rituals and sacrifices, figures and symbols of the ‘First Covenant.’ He announces him through the mouths of the prophets who succeeded one another in Israel.'
As such, we recognize Saint John the Baptist as surpassing all the other prophets. In the fullness of time, the prophetic cycle starting with Elijah came to completion; for in Saint John the Holy Spirit completed his work of making a people ready for God’s Son. Also, Saint John abundantly welcomed Christ into the world; he leaped for joy in his mother’s womb, foreshadowed Christ’s coming in his preaching, baptized and bore witness to Jesus in the Jordan, and gave his life in holy martyrdom. We celebrate Saint John the Baptist’s birth as a triumph to the hope and joy present in Christ’s coming."
After reflecting on the readings of this great solemnity this morning I opened a book for some spiritual reading, here I found some great wisdom...
Regarding the priests' role Pope Paul VI wrote in his encyclical Ecclesiam Suam: "We want to stress once more the very important place that preaching still has...No other form of communication can take its place, not even the exceptionally powerful and effective means provided by modern technology: the press, radio and television. [I'd add here even blogs and the whole cyber-sphere]. In effect, the apostolate and sacred preaching are more or less synonymous terms." Furthermore, in the words of St Vincent of Lerins, "'Guard what has been entrusted to you' (1 Tim 6:20)...You have received gold: deliver gold;...do not shamefully replace the gold with lead....Teach the same things as you have learned, though you may say things in a new way, do not say new things."
This month of June is the month of both the Sacred Heart and the month we give honor to the priesthood. Many men are ordained this month. Hence, St John the Baptist's words should hit home for deacons and priests as they increase that zeal to bring the love of Christ to their flocks. My own second year anniversary of ordination is today. (The diocese of Helena also recently ordained Fr Joe Fleming and Deacon John Crutchfield! See next blog entry..) My bishop, George Leo Thomas, had some powerful words of wisdom at my ordination Mass entitled: Six Hallmarks of Holy, Happy Priests. “...Every priest must attend faithfully and carefully to this hollowed portion of his ministry [referring to the Word of God] especially in the preparation of homilies, thus feeding the spirits of the people with substantial food, and applying the truth of the Gospel to the concrete circumstances of their lives.” He continues, “Priests and deacons must not allow the ministry of the Word to be dulled by habit and routine, or blunted by the temptation to please or appease popular opinion, or to win adulation through clever word craft devoid of spiritual substance. Nor should they overlook the simple reality that the ministry of Word they proclaim is reflected first and foremost by the unspoken witness of their daily lives.”
This really should resonate with all of us, we have received a gift, how is it that we so often hide that gift? Especially in a world who so dearly needs the saving Word, Jesus Christ. I think we're a bit ashamed because perhaps we really don't know the gift, the Person of Christ, as we really should! Maybe if we followed St Paul's wisdom, "Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind" (Rom 12:1-2) we would have that courage and clarity to proclaim the Gospel in everything we do and everyone we meet. It's so very easy to become who and what surrounds us, this is a grave danger in a society which often demands submission. The solution then begins with letting go and letting God, for "He must increase but I must decrease."
St John the Baptist, pray for us!