Saturday, June 23, 2012

'He must increase; I must decrease.' (Sunday homily)

Of all the saints we honor, other than the Mother of God, 
no other saint is honored as much as St. John the Baptist. 

John is the last prophet of the Old Testament—
yet notice, while there’s a book of Jeremiah, a book of Isaiah, 
there is no book of John the Baptist. 
As Saint Augustine said, John is the voice—
but he only speaks one Word: Jesus Christ! 

In a sense, John in his person, 
summarizes and represents the entire Old Testament—
and in another sense, he simply points. 

This literally happened. 
All the other prophets said the Messiah would come. 
But John alone had the privilege of saying, “here he is!” 

In fact, we use his words at every Mass. 
Right before communion, the priest says, 
"Behold the Lamb of God—
behold him who takes away the sins of the world.” 

Those are John’s words. 

John said something else worth remembering: 
He must increase, I must decrease.” 

An ancient homily took note of the fact 
that John is born when the sun is high in sky—
and for the next six months, the days get shorter and shorter—they decrease. 
Then, our Lord is born in December—when the days are short—
and then the days get longer and longer. They increase.

Many people will say, I don’t know how to be a good Christian. 
I don’t know what God asks of me. 

How about this: if all you do this week is imitate John the Baptist, 
you would do very well! How? 

John’s every word was about the Lord. 
Prepare the way of the Lord. Get ready! 

If, when your life comes to an end, 
would it be all right if folks said of you, 
“All he ever did was point to Jesus Christ?” 

John was not wealthy or important—in a worldly way. 
He did not build anything. 
He did not have a family. 
Sometimes people will shy away 
from the religious life or the priesthood because of that. 

But if the Son of God said of you,
"no one born of women is greater than he”—
would that be a good enough legacy? 

A lot of us want to be witnesses to our Faith, 
but we may be afraid to speak up. 
People around us would rather we not say anything. 
Remember this: when John was arrested—and then martyred—
King Herod did not demand John deny anything he believed. 
He simply demanded John keep silent. 

When—after the Resurrection of the Lord—
the high priests arrested the Apostles, they asked the same thing: 
the Apostles simply keep silent about Jesus. 
 Today, not just at home, but throughout the world, 
Christians are being told by governments, 
by the media, by the culture, “keep silent!” 

Right now, we’re marking 14 days for Religious Freedom. 
When our government seeks to interfere 
with how we serve the poor and run hospitals and schools, 
it would like us to go along, quietly. 

In the spirit of John the Baptist, we must not be silent! 
But, like John, we have only one Word to say: 
the Word of God, Jesus Christ! 

Like John, we are focusing these two weeks on prayer and sacrifice. 
John spent a lot of his time deep in fasting and prayer. 
There is a place for us, as citizens, to speak out, to write letters, 
to be engaged in public affairs as is our right and duty… 
But for this Fortnight, we focus on prayer and fasting—like John. 

This is my last homily to you.*
I have thought a lot about what all I might wish to say. 
But I was sent here to speak his word, not mine. 
Seven years ago, I swore before you, and before God, on this altar, 
to make Christ known here. 

* This is my last weekend at Saint Boniface Parish. Next weekend will be my last weekend at Saint Mary.

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