|Birth of St. John the Baptist
Psalm 139:1-3, 13-14, 14-15
Luke 1:57-66, 80
“The Lord called me from birth.” (Is 49:1)
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of John the Baptist. The proximity of today’s feast this year with Pentecost is a coincidence, but I think it is illuminating. We just celebrated the gift of the Holy Spirit on the Church and now we can look at an individual and how he lived out the gift of the Holy Spirit within him.
I do not think there is much known about John the Baptist except
for what is in the Gospels. So what does this tell us about him and
how he lived his life? First of all he had a blessed birth.
His mother and father were old and considered beyond the age of having
children. (Lk 1:7) There was also the mysterious vision Zechariah
had seen in the temple and his loss of speech. (Lk 1:11-22)
He “was in the desert,” many scholars continue to debate if this means physically or figuratively. Either way I think it speaks to a time of self-reflection, of being alone and removed from the rest of the society. I think it speaks of a time of self-realization of who he was and what God wanted him to do with his life. When he left the ‘desert’ he presented himself to Israel as a herald and began to proclaim the kingdom of God was at hand. (Mt 3:2) He preached repentance and holy ethics. He strove for greater morality in society, going so far as to condemn Herod for having relations with his sister-in-law. (Mt 14:5, Lk 3:19) This, as we know, ultimately was the reason for his death. (Mt 14:8) He understood his place and did not build himself up. (Mt 3:11-14, Mk 1:6-8) “No one can say that ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Cor 12:3)
Through these brief accounts of John the Baptist, three characteristics stand out; piety, courage and humility. So how does that relate to us today? John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit. He had the gifts of the Spirit. Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to us so that we might lead good, holy and even heroic lives.
At the first Pentecost the Holy Spirit descended on Mary and the apostles “and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:1-11) giving life and light and the reality of Christ to the Church. We receive the Holy Spirit first in our Baptism and each time we attend Mass or receive any of the sacraments. We too are called to give life and light and the reality of Christ to the world.
The Spirit is by nature love; the inseparable bond of God. We will experience the same mysterious love among humans and with them when we open ourselves to the Spirit within us. “The Spirit of Truth will guide you to all truth.” (Jn 16:13) The Spirit gives us the four cardinal virtues - Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance as well as the three theological virtues - Faith, Hope and Love.
We are children of God and we receive sanctifying grace from the Spirit. The results of listening to the Spirit are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Gal 5:16-25)
God has given us the Spirit of Love, the Spirit of Truth. It is up to each of us to listen to the murmuring of the Spirit so we may live Christ’s message of love and have the courage to extend to all God’s invitation to holiness.
May the Holy Spirit increase in you the awareness that you truly are a masterpiece of God!
“Come Holy Spirit, Come and renew the face of the earth!
Come with your seven gifts! Come, Spirit of Life, Spirit of Communion and
Love! The Church and the world need you. Come, Holy Spirit,
and make ever more fruitful the charisms you have bestowed on us.
Give new strength and missionary zeal to these sons and daughters of yours….Open
their hearts; renew their Christian commitment to the world. Make
them courageous messengers of the Gospel.” (Pope John Paul II,
May 30, 1998)
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