June 24, 2007 (vice 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

Readings: Is 49:1-6 / Acts 13: 22-26 / Lk 1:57-66, 80

Other than Jesus Christ Himself, the Son of God incarnate, only St. John the Baptist is accorded the highest celebration in Church (we call it a Solemnity) on the occasion of his nativity or birthday. For one who declared in all humility, “he must increase, and I must decrease,” (Jn 3:30) St. John is a veritable towering figure in the firmament of superstars in heaven!

But today, we would do well to look at the ways by which, and through which, John the Baptist received that heavenly crown of glory that we, and many other generations, extol him for. As usual, the chosen readings for the day are our primary rich resource and reference.

First and foremost, we must acknowledge that he was a man “called and sent.” He is a man raised after the heart of God himself. This much, the first reading indirectly alludes to. Although, it is by no means clear that the passage from Isaiah really speaks about John the Baptist, the mysterious figure spoken of by Isaiah, nevertheless, finds resonance in the person, life, and mission of John the Baptist. He is one “formed as his servant from the womb.” He, too, “is made glorious in the sight of the Lord” (1st Reading). The unfolding of later events, especially those surrounding his birth, definitely gives credence to the emerging conviction of a believing church, that John the Baptist, indeed, is the one envisioned to be fashioned as a “light to the nations,” like unto Christ, to whom he would later point to.

Secondly, the acknowledgment of the call from above is not to be confused with usurpation of what is not his. He was a “man named John, who was sent from God” (Jn 1:6). He was called and sent. He was not declared to be the most awaited one – the Messiah. “I am not he. Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet” (2nd Reading). John the Baptist’s greatness is not something heaped upon him by himself, but by God alone. His greatness comes from his basic acceptance of his lowliness and nothingness. And that acknowledgment led him to become a voice that proclaims, more than anything else, the glories and praises of God: “I praise you for I am wonderfully made” (Responsorial Psalm).

Thirdly, John the Baptist, in many senses more than just one, is really the “voice” par excellence. Everything seemed to point that out. The few details surrounding his birth seem to converge on this one, important reality. Whilst I have no way of substantiating this, not being a Biblical scholar, there appears to be a connection between his identity and the capacity of using one’s voice to proclaim and profess. Zechariah, his father, we are told, lost his capacity to speak soon after knowing what was in the offing for him and his elderly wife, Elizabeth. But when in writing, he made known his wish for his son to be called John, his capacity to speak came back. John’s identity – his name – appears to be connected with the capacity to speak, proclaim, and profess God’s glory: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel” (Lk 1:68).

Our times are filled with an endless variety and varying intensity of a multiplicity of voices. Voices from the world of mass media continue to offer a flood of information on a minute by minute basis. Voices from the part of our leaders churn out conflicting data and contradictory claims that the voice of objective truth is effectively muzzled. Voices are either magnified, or blown out of proportions such as the voices from the entertainment world. Just about everyone in this postmodern and globalized world, is saturated with conflicting voices that confuse, confound, and complicate our lives. Even mainstream news, that passes itself off, as “latest news and fearless views” can be nothing more than a voyeuristic glance at people’s private lives, relationship problems, and interpersonal difficulties, all shown in their gory details by the warring networks. Some authors even accuse media practitioners as endlessly providing what they aptly call “a pornography of grief.” With everything shown for all to see, and nothing left to the imagination, the repeated showing even of tragedies like the Virginia Tech massacre, leave everyone desensitized, detached, and alarmingly disengaged from the world of real pain of real people with real feelings.

I would like to think of John the Baptist as one who now tells us to put the voice of truth, the voice of the good, and the voice of reason back to where it should remain – in our society, in our hearts, in our minds, and in all we do singly, or together, as communities.

It might do us good to see what sort of voice he was, and is, for the Church and the world. Although his voice, then – and now – is effectively muffled and eclipsed by what Rolheiser refers to as a set of threefold blocks found in postmodern society: the culture of “narcissism, consumerism, and unbridled restlessness,” John the Baptist still represents a voice that “speaks in the wilderness.”

His is a voice that points. He points, not to himself, but to the Voice par excellence, the voice of the Good Shepherd. In all we do, in all we utter, in the many little voices that we contribute to the great cacophony in this noisy world, do we do so much as point to him who “must increase” while we decrease, like unto John the Baptist? When was the last time our utterance pointed to Him who has the last word, He being the Word Incarnate? When was the last time, we led someone to the Lord, like Philip led Nathanael to Him?

But his, too, is a voice that proclaims. When he got his identity from his father, and was named John, there was a major turning point in the lives of his old parents. It was already a miracle enough of itself for him to be born in his parents retirement age. But the greater miracle is what took place when he got, and acknowledged, and claimed his God-sent identity. Even Zechariah took to proclaiming, ahead of his son who was yet in his early years. “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel.”

But most importantly, John’s voice was a voice that professes. “I am not worthy to unfasten his sandals … He must increase, and I must decrease.”

Proclamation spilled over into profession. Word ought to lead to worship and witness. Knowing his place, aware of his call, and cognizant of his being sent “from God,” John the Baptist professed for all to hear: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29).

His voice was never muffled. His voice was never drowned out by a flood of other conflicting voices. His voice stood out even as his neck stuck out for Herod to mercilessly pick on. But in death, as in life, his voice remains a thundering roar heard from generation to generation – a voice that points, proclaims, and professes.

“Open our ears, O God, to his message, and free our hearts to turn from our sins and receive the life of the gospel” (Alternative Opening Prayer).

June 16, 2007 - Saturday, 10:10 AM
Paranaque City, Philippines


peace in Christ, fr. chito!

thanks for the warm wishes.

i have been reading your articles in don bosco's web site. i always appreciate the depth of your reflection and insight.

at present, i am here in xavier school in san juan. i am doing my practical training. i will be here for two years -- teaching in Economics for the 4th year students and current affairs for the 3rd year students. after which, i hope to start with my studies in theology. i am really excited in this kind of life.

God is so good.

with my prayers,