June 24-The Birth of John the Baptist – 2018
First Reading — Isaiah 49:1-6
Hear me, O coastlands! Listen, O distant peoples. The Lord called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name. He made of me a sharp-edged sword and concealed me in the shadow of his arm. He made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me. You are my servant, he said to me, Israel, through whom I show my glory. Though I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, yet my reward is with the Lord, my recompense is with my God. For now the Lord has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb, that Jacob may be brought back to him and Israel gathered to him; and I am made glorious in the sight of the Lord, and my God is now my strength! It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.
Second Reading — Acts of the Apostles 13:22-26
In those days, Paul said: “God raised up David as their king; of him he testified, ‘I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will carry out my every wish.’ From this man’s descendants God, according to his promise, has brought to Israel a savior, Jesus. John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel; and as John was completing his course, he would say, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.’ “My brothers, children of the family of Abraham, and those others among you who are God-fearing, to us this word of salvation has been sent.”
Gospel — 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.
My sisters and brothers in Jesus Christ,
Instead of the regular Sunday Mass, today we have the Birth of Saint John the Baptist. John the Baptist has a huge role in the life of Jesus and prepares others to know of the coming of salvation and of Jesus. John the Baptist was recognized as a strong religious presence before Jesus was recognized—and John always points to Jesus. In the same way, you and I must learn always to point to Jesus by the way we live our lives and in our speaking, writing and thinking.
The first reading today is from the Prophet Isaiah. Isaiah tells us of his own awareness that God had called him to be a servant of God’s presence in all that he does. Isaiah realized that God had created him to testify to God’s presence and to proclaim God’s presence in his life. This reading reflects an awareness that many of the prophets had that God wants us all to reflect the mysteries of God and to point to God by everything in our lives.
You and I are invited today to know that God is also calling us in the same way, with the same intensity. God loves us. God wants us. God wants us to proclaim His presence and His works to everyone. Most of us don’t do that in our lives, but our not doing it does not change God’s wanting it.
The second reading is from the Acts of the Apostles. It reflects another human trait: when we someone good, we tend to think of them not only as set apart, but better than ourselves. The challenge is that God wants us all to be saints. The word “saint” makes us think of someone better than ourselves. God wants us all to be saints, not to look better than others, but to reflect His goodness and love to all. It is always the challenge of doing only what God wants. This is the challenge of spiritual combat and we are all invited to such spiritual combat.
Saint John the Baptist took up the challenge of doing God’s will and tried to do God’s will with all his being. John the Baptist took up the spiritual combat of not doing his will but God’s will.
The Gospel today, from Saint Luke, tells the things that happened before the birth of John the Baptist. The neighbors all knew that there was something special about this child. We can all claim that there was nothing special about our birth, but it is not so. The birth of new life, of a new child, is always special—but we don’t pay attention to that aspect. Today as there are fewer and fewer births in the western world, we begin to see how special each one is. Only as we begin to pay attention to God do we begin to understand how special each human being is and how each human being can draw others to God and to the mysteries of faith.
May we come to know how special each life is, our own included, and how each of us can point to the Lord Jesus and draw others to Him.
Your brother in the Lord,