Imagine that you are hosting a fancy party with the best of food and drink for your family and friends.
As the party begins and you’re getting warmed up in the small talk, your old friend John walks in with disheveled hair, wearing clothing made of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist. The party grinds to a halt as everyone gasps at his appearance.
You kindly walk over to your old friend and say, “Ah, John, I hate to break this to you buddy, but camel hair hasn’t been in since the ’70s.”
Needless to say, our beloved John the Baptist, who we celebrate this coming Sunday, can teach about following Jesus the Messiah.
The second reading from the Acts of the Apostles relates that John says, “What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet” (Acts 13:25).
Now, I remember a lesson from school that finger pointing is rude. We aren’t supposed to point fingers at others. It is a sign that we fail to take responsibility. “I didn’t do it, he did!”
John’s pointing, however, is marvelous. It is a good finger pointing. “I am not the Messiah, he is!”
If we do not have a bumper sticker that says, “I am not the Messiah,” at the very least, it should be in our hearts and minds as we live out our baptism. That, coupled with one of John’s most beautiful scriptural lines, “He must increase; I must decrease,” (John 3:30) truly makes John a wonderful example for us this week.
A break from tradition
The Gospel says that the neighbors asked, “What, then, will this child be?” (Luke 1:66), after Zechariah surprisingly broke with tradition of not naming the child after himself. “No, he will be called John” (Luke 1:60).
John’s life answers this question beautifully. While John is most commonly known as “the baptist” given that he baptized the people of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem (Mark 1:5), including Jesus himself (Matthew 3:13-17), he could also be known as John the preparer, the messenger or even the good pointer, as mentioned. His life attests to the fact that he was a man of deep prayer, courage and humility.
As we prepare and reflect upon the readings for this week, I suggest that you ask the Lord and yourself, “In what way am I like John the Baptist?” “Does my life ‘point to’ Jesus as the Messiah and if not, what changes could I make so that would better do so?”
Certainly, we would be taken back a little if John showed up at a party today.
However, after overcoming the initial shock, we would do well to pay attention to John because he has a lot to teach us about living the Christian life.
Deacon Leonard Andrie is in formation for the priesthood at The St. Paul Seminary for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. His home parish is St. Patrick in Inver Grove Heights and his teaching parish is St. Odilia in Shoreview.
Sunday, June 24
Nativity of John the Baptist
- Isaiah 49:1-6
- Acts 13:22-26
- Luke 1:57-66, 80
How are you pointing the way to Jesus in the way you are living your life?