Homilette for Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist

(Luke 1:57-66;80)

Pope Benedict XVI writes that his whole village celebrated his ordination to the priesthood. The festivities were so grand, he says, that in the midst of them the future pope had to remind himself repeatedly, “This is not for you, Joseph; this is not for you.” Who was it for, then? Of course, the people were giving glory to Christ and expressing their gratitude for the ministry of his Church.

The Church along with the gospel writers portrays John the Baptist with humility similar to that of Benedict XVI. The Church has selected June 24 for the feast of John’s birth because it is around the day when the sun’s light in the northern hemisphere begins to decrease, just as John says in the fourth gospel, “(Jesus) must increase; I must decrease.” In the gospel passage we read today, Elizabeth and Zechariah insist that “John” is their baby’s name. “John” means “Yahweh has shown favor.” God favors not only the aged parents in having their first child but all Israel and, indeed, the whole world for the one whom John will announce. As Zechariah proclaims in his famous canticle, John will go before the Lord Jesus to prepare his ways.

We are wise to be humble like the young, future Pope Benedict and like John the Baptist. No matter how intelligent, rich, or beautiful we may be, we are not as indispensable as we think. We are not even capable of a truly good deed without the gift of grace. And that grace comes from Jesus Christ who has, indeed, saved every one of us.