HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY JOHN THE BAPTIST
THEME: THE ROLE OF JOHN THE BAPTIST
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches
HOMILY FOR THURSDAY JUNE 23 2022
Luke 1:57-66, 80
When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her. When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.” But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.” So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.
The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.
In any major formal gathering, the usual highlight is the keynote address of the special guest of honor. But before the speech, there is always a formal introduction of the guest speaker. The best person to take this role is the one who has information about him, or better still, who knows him personally. In a way, he can be called the precursor of the guest of honor.
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Precursor of the Lord, St. John the Baptist. There is no better person to take up this role. Although John lived in the desert his entire mature life, he knows Jesus very well, particularly through the infused knowledge of the Holy Spirit. We may recall that when Mary visited Elizabeth, the baby John already recognized the presence of the unborn Savior when, at the greeting of Mary, he stirred with joy in the womb of his mother.
In the gospel of Luke, there are many parallels between John and Jesus. Their births were both extraordinary and miraculous: Elizabeth was old and barren, while Mary was a young and immaculate virgin. Both births were announced in advance: in John’s case, it was announced to to his father Zechariah and in Jesus’ case, it was to his mother Mary. They both lived simple and hidden lives: John in the desert while Jesus was known only as a carpenter’s son in Nazareth. During their public ministry, they both lived in complete simplicity: John was clothed in camel’s hair and ate locusts and wild honey, while Jesus “had nowhere to lay His head.” And the main message they both proclaimed is basically the same: “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand!”
In other words, in the conduct of his mission, John has already given some clear and important hints on the person of the coming Messiah. He has done the introduction so well that he is fittingly up to the task of the Messiah’s Precursor. Fully aware of this role, the main focus of his mission is the Messiah: “He must increase, I must decrease!” Indeed, he played a unique role in the history of salvation. He stood as the bridge between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Though he was already present in the New Order when Jesus began His public ministry, he still basically belongs to the Old Order. He died before Jesus accomplished His redemptive work and before the birth of the Church. He never saw the Risen Lord nor enjoyed the spiritual fruits of the sacraments of the Church.
John is truly a great man, prophet and Precursor. He is the only person whose true greatness was acknowledged and praised by Jesus: “I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Lk 7:28). These words of the Lord should give us profound joy. Despite John’s greatness and unique role in salvation history, he did not enjoy the priceless blessings we now have. We are, in a sense, ‘greater’ than John because we were born in the era of the New Testament. Hence, we are enjoying so many graces and privileges brought about by the redemptive work of Jesus that were not availed of by John and the many great patriarchs, prophets and holy men before him.
This realization should lead us to a meaningful appreciation of our Christian dignity and mission. In baptism, we have become God’s beloved children and members of the Church, the community of believers. Because of this, we, too, are called to be ‘precursors’ of the Lord. In a world slowly enveloped by pagan values of pleasure, money and selfishness, we are duty-bound to proclaim the gospel values of Christ. Like John the Baptist, we have to make Christ known to the world and tell people: “Look! Here is Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” In a world where sin reigns with impunity, we challenge people to conversion: “Repent! The kingdom of God is at hand!” In a society where pride is the norm, we say, “Christ must increase, I must decrease!”
We profess that Jesus Christ will come again on the last day to establish His kingdom on earth. The world has to be reminded of this truth of faith. And we, as His followers, are called to be the precursors of His Second Coming. This is a challenging and even risky job. The first Precursor, John the Baptist, was imprisoned and beheaded. We, too, must be ready to face opposition, ridicule and even persecution. After all, proclaiming the truth has never been a risk-free business. But this should not keep us from our mission and duty as Christians and precursors of the Lord.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches