John, The Herald of Salvation

06-24-2018Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian F. Manning

At Mass this past weekend everything finally aligned correctly for us. The Sunday Scripture started with Part Two of Ordinary Time, the summer heat and wonderful weather became more consistent, and finally life in general eased up with all the sunlight which makes life better. The Ordinary Sundays which run through the summer are filled with scripture that allows us time to pause and reflect upon ourselves, our lives, our journey in faith and what everything in many ways is all about. Ordinary Summer Time is a great time to ponder quietly and without undue stress our lives and where we are going. However, this Sunday in this year we take a step off our path of reflection to celebrate the birthday, aka Nativity, of John the Baptist. His actual birth date is unknown, but because he was a very hot and fiery prophet, his birthday is plunked down right in the middle of the Northern Hemisphere's hot and sunny season of summer. Our spring lasted quite a length this year, so that the dryness of summer and the scorched earth lacking water have yet to appear around us. In fact, this year, most of us are quite happy that summer has finally arrived, even if water limitations and high heat will soon start.

Usually we hear from John the Baptist at length during Advent when we are preparing for the Feast of Christmas, the Birth Day of Jesus. John loudly and dramatically speaks for himself during the Sundays of Advent, but on this summer feast day in honor of him, others speak for and about him. This feast day is celebratory day which is marked by scripture passages from Isaiah, Paul, and Luke, all three impressive sacred figures.

Bear in mind, that our sacred scripture abounds with stories of children born "late in life," after all hope is gone and childbearing years have passed. A quite elderly Sarah gave birth to Isaac, and God's sacred promise to Abraham was fulfilled at long last. Our Gospel today relates the story we remember of the birth of John, who was promised in a vision to his father, Zechariah, who was well advanced in years. Zechariah is informed quite dramatically that the child is to be called John, which means "God is good." Although this name is strange to his parents, neither one of them can dispute its meaning, for surely God has been good to them by giving them this blessing of a child in their old age. We get to find out how good God really is in the later part of John's life. Recall, also, in Jewish culture, a name is vital. It carries meaning and tradition; it connects the past with the present for the future and also it expresses family connections. This heaven-assigned name clearly carried a mission for John. It, however is not a name found anywhere on the family tree, and this triggers great discussions and mumurings among the relatives. We learn in the story that Zechariah is speechless from the time of the announcement of the birth until the naming of the child. Zachariah finds his voice when he insists his name is to be John and that God has somehting special for him to do.

Our second reading by Paul has us recognize that John turns over his mission to Jesus, who is the Messiah. John transfers to Jesus all the attention that he had garnered. He gives his followers and converts to Jesus. Our Old Testament reading tells of an unknown servant who announces good news to the ends of the earth. The Church has interpreted this to be the resounding voice of John, the herald of salvation. We know that Gospels dismiss John the Baptist very early and quickly, but we are reminded in the writings of the Prophet Isaiah that for John: "My reward is with the Lord, my recompense is with my God...And I am made glorious in the sight of the Lord, and my God is now my strength!" (Is 49:4, 5) John pointed out Jesus on the banks of the Jordan and called Him the Lamb of God. We also, are called to get out of the way as we point out to others Jesus, the Lamb of God.

-Father Brian