Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.”
Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations/ ).
St. John the Baptist is a fascinating figure. There is much about this man that our imaginations can latch on to. Just picture him out there in the desert, clothed in who-knows-what, eating the wild food of locusts and honey, unwashed and unkempt, and on top of all of this, he is preaching. Not just preaching anything, but preaching repentance. What an image!
But what is this man all about? For what purpose did he once leave his loving family behind and head out into those deserted wastes? What sustains him as he eats such unappetizing food, and lives in such destitution? And where does he draw the moral strength necessary to preach general repentance to the vast multitude of people who come to see him? He has a mission, a particular, unique reason for his existence: to be the forerunner of the Messiah.
John is, in many ways, the paradigm of religiosity, a religious hero. His austerity, courage, devotion, perseverance, all mark him as an exemplar of those great virtues. Jesus acknowledges this greatness when He said, “There is no one born of woman greater than John the Baptist.” But what John can teach us above all, is that singularly most important virtue of humility. This most blessed man knew clearly that he lived to serve another. As our novice master used to say, patiently and calmly, “It’s not about you.” It’s so easy to say, but hard to live. Today, let us pray to St. John the Baptist to obtain for us from God a share in his humility.
—Mr. Timothy Kieras, S.J.
Lord, why is it we are so concerned about impressing others or receiving credit for our work? Why is it so difficult to give anonymous acts of kindness? Time and time again we experience a hollow victory when we center on ourselves. We need your grace, Lord, to empty ourselves, focus on your glory, and fill up on your Spirit. When it’s not all about us and it is all about you, the blessings overflow. Help us to release our grip on recognition and extend our hands to you.
—The Jesuit Prayer TeamPlease share the Good Word with your friends!