You may or may not have noticed this,
But every year, on this Sunday—and next Sunday too—
we always hear about Saint John the Baptist.
And Saint John gets two days a year when we honor him:
The day of death, but also the day of his birth.
And for a long time, it was almost automatic
that a church would always have an image of John—
as we do to my right, your left.
So the point is, John is someone we are invited to look at closely.
And the question I was thinking about this week—
which I’ll now put before you—is…Why?
Why John the Baptist, as opposed to so many other figures?
The fact is, after the Blessed Mother,
no other saint is so honored as much.
But before we answer the question,
let’s notice something else.
This time of year,
there’s obviously a lot of and advertising and gift-buying.
As a result, we all do a kind window-shopping:
We see in the ads, or in the stores,
all the marvelous things
someone else can afford to buy—but we can’t.
How many people expect
to get a Lexus or an Audi for Christmas?
So most of us
are like the kid with her nose against the glass,
thinking, oh if only!
And, of course, this is one of the challenges for us:
Because for too many people,
their dreams aren’t for a diamond necklace or a video game—
but just new shoes or clothes or food or diapers.
So we still have tags on our Giving Tree.
While that’s what goes on in the commercial part of Christmas,
That is not what’s going on when—in our worship—
we look at saints like John the Baptist or even the Blessed Mother.
We’re not doing a kind of spiritual window-shopping,
Where we are supposed to see what great gifts they got—but not us!
On the contrary, when we look at
the Virgin Mary, or John the Baptist,
or Mary Magdalene, or the Apostles,
what we’re looking at is a gift God gave them—
that he also gives to us, if we want.
If we ask.
So what do we see in John?
John was filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb.
Do we want to be filled with the Holy Spirit?
But that gift of the Spirit isn’t just a toy for us to play with;
The Holy Spirit has only one purpose:
To make Jesus Christ known!
And that was the whole of John the Baptist’s life.
I remember giving a talk once
to some school kids about John the Baptist—
and the only thing they seemed to notice
was his strange clothes and his diet.
Locusts and wild honey doesn’t sound very appetizing.
But there is a temptation we all face,
to make food and pleasure way too important.
You can probably tell—I like food!
John reminds us that other things are more important.
And when we make sacrifices—both in Lent, and all year long—
we teach ourselves that other things matter more.
John was a lot more concerned about the things of God—
and what was eternal—than he was about clothing and food.
John sounds pretty harsh doesn’t he?
He calls some of the folks a “brood of vipers.”
But notice he didn’t send them away;
He was waking them up.
And he said, don’t presume you’re on easy street.
That’s excellent advice for us.
When we come to Mass, Sunday after Sunday,
we might think, we’re pretty good people,
God must be pretty happy with us.
But we don’t go to Mass to please God.
The angels fill this church every Mass—
whether we come or not.
Mass isn’t something we do for God;
It’s something God does for us.
The Church offers us Saint John the Baptist as an example.
But if we want the gifts God gave him, are we ready to join in his mission:
To have all we are and do, point to Jesus Christ?