Daily Reflection
June 24th, 2005

Tom Shanahan, S.J.

University Relations and the Theology Department
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Solemnity of Birth of John the Baptist
Isaiah 49:1-6
Psalm 139:1b-3, 13-14ab, 14c-15
Acts 13:22-26
Luke 1:57-66, 80

Today is the feast day of St. John the Baptist. John is considered, among other things, to be the last of the Prophets. Indeed he was a prophetic figure calling the people to repentance and inviting them to turn their lives over to God. John was a single-minded person and he lived out the vocation that he was called into with integrity. His vocation was to point out the Messiah, to be a harbinger of the coming of the Christ. He fulfilled that vocation with a life of faithfulness to God and God’s Word.

John is an intriguing figure for us to contemplate. He is especially remembered in the season of advent because of his vocation as the one who would “point out” the Messiah. As such his position was always to point away from himself towards the Christ. John is an important figure as we live out our lives as Christians.

There is an enlightening reference to John the Baptizer from the Patristic Era of church history that highlights who John was and stresses his faithfulness to God’s call. Yesterday, the 23rd of June is very near the longest day of the year. During these days in the Northern Hemisphere we enjoy the sun’s presence for many extra hours. In contrast, Jesus’ birth took place near the shortest day of the year where the sun’s light shines only a limited number of hours. After John’s birth in June, the daily light of the sun begins to diminish; in contrast after Jesus’ birth in December, the earth’s light in the Northern world begins to increase. So nature itself seems to participate in the gospel saying attributed to John in reference to Jesus: “He (Jesus) must increase, and I (John the Baptizer) must decrease.”

“He must increase, I must decrease.” If that isn’t something to aspire to in our lives of faith! Each one of us in our own way is invited by God into deeper life-in-Him. It all began with our baptism and it unfolds as we continue to hear and respond to the Lord’s call.

John’s statement about increase/decrease invites us to put our focus on Christ as John himself was focused. Let it be our prayer, then, on this feast of John the Baptizer that we continue to hear God’s call in our hearts, minds and bodies; that we can respond whole-heartedly to that call as we grow as women and men of faith, hope and love. Let us, like John, be inspired to a single-minded and faithful response to our unique call from God. 

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