Homily by Fr. Paul Plante
Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist
June 24, 2012
Scriptural Reference: Luke 1:5-7; Luke 1:57-66, 80; Psalm 71:1-2, 3-4A, 5-6AB, 15AB AND 17; Psalm 139:1B-3, 13-14AB, 14C-15
Some of our great Feasts, connected of course to the great mysteries of our faith – all of them also having something to do directly with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Well some of these feasts do not fall on a Sunday like Easter, Pentecost – nor are they Holy Days of obligation like Christmas, the Ascension, the Immaculate Conception – but remain of such importance that when they do fall on a Sunday in Ordinary Time, they replace Sunday. Such is the case this week-end with the Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist. It should be noticed that we do not call this feast the Birth of John the Baptist but the Nativity – such terminology also used for Christmas – the Nativity of the Lord as well as the Feast of the Nativity of Mary.
Does it not indicate that these births took place in the context of mystery? – in the context of a very special plan that God had for all 3 of these births in our world? – all linked of course to our salvation.
Very important feasts have a special Mass for the Eve – which we call a Vigil Mass – with 2 separate sets of readings – therefore giving us more to reflect upon in terms of the mystery we are celebrating!
Since we are connecting a birth – that of John the Baptist with God’s mysterious and loving plan for him – at both Masses, the response to the psalm brings us to the core of mystery – God’s plan for John right from his conception – Jesus himself - hidden in the womb of his mother sanctifying John in the womb of Mary’s cousin Elizabeth.
Listen to both Psalm responses: “Since my mother’s womb, you have been my strength.” John, called to be a very special prophet – courageous enough to point out evil in the powerful of his time – paying for it with his life.
“I praise you for I am wonderfully made”. God creating us in his own image right from conception – God having a plan – a purpose for John the Baptist right from before his birth.
We must not forget that it is on the occasion of the conception of Jesus, that Mary learns that her cousin Elizabeth is already in her sixth month of pregnancy – and that the child she is carrying is the one promised to John’s father in the sanctuary – a child that would be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb.
John, of course was meant to grow up – to baptize Jesus – to recognize Jesus as the One – the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. John also who as a prophet would have the courage to speak out even against the most powerful. We could say that John was the one who was truly free – even when he was in prison.
In these days before July 4th, our National Holiday, we are being asked to reflect seriously on freedoms linked to our faith and conscience that are being threatened, eroded – beware to the one who does not take this seriously. Without making exceptions in the laws of the nation, religious freedom could lead to very serious problems. Also, do not see it as just a Catholic issue. We have to be leaders in speaking out – our numbers, our good sense of organization, and especially our consciences make us prophets. Hopefully with the courage of John the Baptist!
During this Fortnight for Freedom, we celebrated the Feast of Thomas More and John Fisher - now the Feast of Saint John - all prophetic voices.
May today’s Church continue to produce true prophets to assure true freedom.