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Select Homily
June, 20 2018

Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (B)

Rev. Jim Schmitmeyer / Dr. Susan Fleming McGurgan

 

The child whose birth we celebrate

was sent from God to be a voice;

a witness;

a messenger.

 

He was a signpost,

wrapped in wonder

and delivered as a gift

so that we might come to believe.   

 

His birth to an elderly man

and a woman past childbearing age,

was a miracle pointing to the birth of Christ

and the graciousness of God.

 

The child whose day we celebrate

was not “the light”

but one who came to show us the light.

He was a sound in the wilderness;

a path through the desert;

a spark to the flame.

 

**The child whose birth we celebrate today

would one day elbow his way

from the confines of the priestly home

and, barefoot, scale rock-strewn hills and stand atop sharp, chiseled rock

and yell “Prepare!” “Confess!” “Repent!”

Now! Before it’s too late.

Locust wings glinting like spit in wisps of beard,

he’d talk of axes and preach about destruction.

 

The feast we celebrate today is unique.
It’s one of only three birthdays

commemorated on the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church.

We celebrate the birth of our Savior.

We celebrate the birth of Mary, our Mother.

And celebrate the birth of John the prophet.

 

We rejoice in the love of Mary.

We exult in the strength of Christ.

 But the words of the prophet,

while heralding the approach of the world’s salvation,

also draw our attention to the sound of children crying in the night,

the stomp of Herod’s soldiers in the alleys of Bethlehem,

the muddy water of sin swirling about the feet and ankles

of all of us who dare to take our place on the bank of the river, saying,

“Save me, Lord, from the dangers of the world.

Save us, Lord, from the fears in our souls.”

 

Why?

Because this is what a prophet is born to do.

The vocation of the prophet

rests in revealing the truth.

And the truth that the prophet reveals

resides in the fact that the world is broken

and God alone can fix it.*

 

A prophet reveals the nature of God

and invites us to turn back to God’s Word and God’s Laws.

A prophet warns us;

teaches us;

points out God’s fingerprints in the world. 

 

A prophet reminds us that the way things are today

are not the way things have to be;

that God’s view and our views offer vastly different perspectives.

 

A prophet challenges us to live into mission,

even when that mission leads to danger or fear.

 

The angel said to Zechariah,

“Do not be afraid, because your prayer has been heard.”

 

Do not be afraid.

John waits for us on the road.

His feast invites us to open our eyes

and look for a path through the wilderness;

to lift our voices

and witness to the light.

 

This is not easy.

Our world, like John’s

is burdened by the darkness of injustice, cruelty, abuse of power.

It is wounded by poverty, suffering and fear.

But the words of the angel still ring out:  

“Do not be afraid.”

 

John reminds us of the power of one voice.

The impact of one life.

The courage of one footstep,

followed by another

and another.

 

Do not be afraid.

Your prayer has been heard,

Your path has been prepared.  

  

*Rev. Jim Schmitmeyer wrote the body of this homily. The introduction and conclusion were adapted for cycle B by Dr. Susan McGurgan 

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