Today The Church remembers the Passion of St. John the Baptist. He was the last prophet of Israel; he lived and died in the appointed place in history as the forerunner of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. It was his passion for God in the way he lived and in the way he died that we are remembering today. The Saint’s passion was for the fulfillment of God’s promise of the Messiah. That zeal prevailed above the threat of persecution and martyrdom! I believe that is why the daily liturgy includes the Canticle of Zechariah at the beginning of each day. What Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, said at his birth is what our heavenly Father says to us. “You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the LORD to prepare his way…to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
He must increase, but I must decrease.
St. John the Baptist
St. John the Baptist lived up to that proclamation; he lived up to what he said was his entire desire, Christ must increase, but I must decrease. On the surface, death looks like the absolute decrease of one’s existence, but he knew differently because his hope was in the fulfillment of God’s promises. Doesn’t that make you want to stand up straighter as a beloved child of God? It does me!
What can we learn from St. John the Baptist as we live out the desire for Christ to increase while we decrease? The mass reading from the Epistles today provides guidance for you and me on how to be courageous in our passion for Christ to increase in us. St. Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthians:
When I came to you, brothers and sisters,
proclaiming the mystery of God,
I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom.
For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you
except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling,
and my message and my proclamation
were not with persuasive words of wisdom,
but with a demonstration of spirit and power,
so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom
but on the power of God.
I Corinthians 2: 1-5
As Christians, our hope comes from outside, not from what we can conjure up from the culture around us. Once we come to the place that St. Paul refers to when he wrote I resolve to know nothing except Jesus Christ, we cease striving for we have discovered the extraordinary truth that we are the beloved child of the Most High God, from him and through him all things flow, He is enough! Our striving decreases in us when we know nothing except Jesus Christ. He changes our very nature, and we become passionate, as it were, to live as forerunners for Christ in our corner of the world just like St. John the Baptist.
St. John the Baptist’s very life was a demonstration of spirit and power, as St. Paul put it. He would not allow the status quo of the religiosity of his day nor the ho-hum business-as-usual culture to stop him from shining Christ to his world. He hoped despite his circumstances because his faith didn’t rest not on human wisdom but in the power of God. I desire that, don’t you?
LORD Jesus Christ, grant us the courage and passion that St. John the Baptist exemplified in his living and dying.
Decrease in us the spirit of fear, pride, and anger that is borne of the darkness in our souls. We ask for the increase of all that is good, right, ans true in us, and grant us the courage to live in the power of your name.
Glory be to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, it is now, and ever shall be a world without end.