JOHN THE BAPTIST – 2012 B
John the Baptist was a prophet. In scripture prophecy refers the proclamation of the Truth of God. The prophecy might not always refer to the future. For example, John the Baptist, was being prophetic when he pointed to Jesus and said, “There is the Lamb of God.” John the Baptist was also being prophetic when he told Herod that he, the king, was a sinner. That was the truth, and John lost his head for proclaiming it.
“The time will come to pass that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.” That is from the prophet Joel. That time is now. The Holy Spirit has been poured out upon us since Pentecost. Yesterday, Mikaela Anne was anointed as a prophet in her baptism. We are called, like John, to prophesy, in the full meaning of the term prophet. We are called to proclaim the Truth of God.
On Friday we celebrated the feast of the martyrs John Fischer and Thomas More. Both opposed the King of England, Henry VIII, in his declaration that he was the Supreme Head of the Church. He did not want to hear that he was committing adultery by marrying Anne Boelyn. He demanded that all the bishops and nobles sign the Act of Supremacy, declaring that the King had complete authority over the Church.
Truth is both attractive and challenging. We see evidence of that in both in King Herod and in King Henry Vlll. The scripture says that King Herod was perplexed by John the Baptist, yet he liked to listen to him. He didn’t want to hear that the relationship that he has with Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife was displeasing to God, yet the truth boldly spoken by John resonated with his conscience.
King Henry knew that if Thomas More gave approval the whole realm would support him because no one questioned the integrity of the man; he was a truth speaker. King Henry valued his counsel and yearned for his approval; needed his approval. It disturbed Henry that Thomas could not set his conscience free; not Thomas’ conscience but Henry’s conscience. Archbishop John Fischer and Sir Thomas More refused. Even after they were imprisoned, Fischer and More’s very existence irritated the King. These martyrs died because they were prophets, committed to the Truth of God.
In the first reading God has made his servant into a sharp-edged sword, a polished arrow, an impressive weapon of the Lord’s. This weapon isn’t meant for the destruction of people, though. It’s meant for the destruction of the evil that keeps people from God. The prophets are those with a great tenderness and deep love for their people. They were not afraid to speak out the truth whenever necessary, but it was out of love for their people and because they cared a lot for their happiness and peace. And no matter how tragic the crises the prophets had to face, they always managed to summon their people to hope and to new life. Prophets often did have to denounce in the first place, but ultimately they were sent to announce. They announced God's salvation and helped people turn toward God's Messiah.
Jesus said, "You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free." (Jn 8:32) By "truth" Jesus does not mean some kind of ideology or political program. To understand what Jesus is saying you have hear the whole sentence: "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free." By becoming disciples, we know the truth - Jesus himself. By knowing Jesus through prayer and sacraments, we experience freedom. Jesus himself is the Truth that makes us free. John, therefore, is the herald of freedom because he announces Jesus.
Truth is a two edged sword. It cuts between the marrow and the bone. It cuts deep. It is always attractive because it resonates with the interior desire to do good; to seek greatness. It is always something we shun because it calls us to admit worng; to a metanoia; to a conversion. In scripture it uses the image of people ‘Stopping their ears” and rushing to do violence to the messenger.
The First Reading begins with the voice of God’s servant telling us that he has a vocation from the Lord. The servant Israelwas chosen to be a beacon for all nations to see and be drawn back to God.
We are all servants of God. The servant of God is called to bring God’s people, the Israelites, back to God. This is a great vocation, isn’t it?
Yet the most significant part of his reflection comes next. “You are my servant, Yahweh said to me, through whom I show my glory.” The prophet can’t let Yahweh’s statement go unchallenged: “I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength.” In other words, “How can I have shown your glory when I failed at the task you gave me?” He simply never thought he’d successfully conveyed Yahweh’s message to his fellow Israelites in exile.
He worked hard; but, as it turns out, he felt he spent his strength uselessly. The voice of the Lord answers the voice of God’s servant. It is too little for you just to bring the Israelites back to God, the Lord says. No, you will do this and much more! You will be a light to all the nations, and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.
Anyone who fails needs to hear the following words over and over. “Yet my reward is with Yahweh, my recompense is with my God.” None of us are able to judge our success or failure. Only God can do that. We humans simply can’t see the whole picture. God sees dimensions we never notice.
We are called to proclaim the Truth, even if it is unpopular. I am sure everyone here has gotten into a squabble or two or ten with family members when you mention that a particular lifestyle isn’t proper. Certainly, if you ever told your children that something which other kids are doing is wrong, you have had a fight on your hands. Good parents put up the good fight. And, in the long run, the Truth always wins. How often have I heard parents say they feel they have failed in raising their children! Remember truth spoke always attracts because it vibrates in harmony with our deepest yearning. Wait for the song to be sung!