John the Baptist’s Testimony to Himself
OTHER HOMILY SOURCES:
A friend of a friend of mine requested me to visit her old and ailing mother for a possible celebration of the sacrament of confession. Reaching the house, I hastened to enter the room of the mother. Unfortunately, she was not informed of my visit. So she was startled to see me in her room. Her first question was “Sino ka?” I said: “I was a visitor of her daughter.” Second question: “Ano ka?” I answered that I was a priest. Third question: “Anong kailangan mo?” Not losing my cool yet, I patiently explained that her daughter requested me to come, in case she wanted to make a confession. It was my turn to get startled, when she said: “Confession? I don’t have sins! You, priests, you have plenty of them!” I could have blurted out: “Amen!”
The first question to John the Baptist by the priests and Levites was, “Who are you?” The second was, “What are you?” The answers John gave made it clear that his identity lay in his mission. “I am not the messiah, nor the prophet, nor Elijah. I am the voice crying in the desert, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord!’” John’s mission was about preparing God’s way and ushering his goodness into the hearts of people who had gone astray. John gave his life for his mission. In life and death, John knew himself, who he was and what he was.
A new year lies in front of us. Another year to regain or intensify the knowledge of our mission from the Lord. In good health and in bad, what is my mission in life? What does God want me to do in the situation that I am in? Do I know who I am and what I am? (Fr. Atilano Corcuera, SVD Bible Diary 2006)
It is just the second of the brand new year. After more than a week of Christmas festivities and a grand welcome to 2007 with deafening firecrackers and captivating lights, I find myself, just like you, prayerfully wishing for more blessings and accomplishments this year and the years to come. And I’m wondering what will my faith-goals be, what will my directions be for the next 363 days.
Yesterday, the Church gave us Mary as the Mother of God. The Church wan ts to trust God as Mary did. Mama Mary is showing us the way to consecrate the brand new year to God. However, today, I’m asking myself why the church chose this gospel which speaks of the testimony of John the Baptist about Jesus of Nazareth and the first reading from the First Letter of St. John which advices Johannine community to remain always in Jesus Christ.
Alexander the Great, one of the greatest military generals of all time, conquered almost the whole world because of his leadership. One night he could not sleep. He decided to leave his tent and walked around the camp. As he was going around, he found one of his guard soldiers sleeping while on duty. It was very grave offense which would mean death by burning. Alexander woke him up. He recognized the commander-in-chief and begged for his life.
Alexander asked his trembling soldier, “Do you know the penalty for sleeping while on duty” “Yes, sir”, the soldier politely answered. “Soldier, what is your name?” Alexander the Great asked. The soldier said, “Alexander, sir.” “What is your name, again?” “Alexander, sir!”
For the third time, Alexander the Great asked, “What is your name?” a third time the soldier answered, “Alexander, sir.” Alexander the Great staring fiercely at the soldier, said, “Soldier, either you change your name or change your conduct your conduct.”
I am a baptized Christian, a Catholic. Just like John the Baptist, I am called by God to give testimony about Jesus and about my faith in Him. And the first reading is telling me to remain faithful to Him. Now I know what God through the Church wants me to do: first, to bear witness to Jesus Christ through my behavior, decisions and conduct; and second, to remain faithful to Him. These are my faith-goals. Through these, God will lead me to more blessings and accomplishments. This is my direction this new year. Otherwise, I am not worthy to be called Christian…it’s either I change my name or I change my conduct!
Do you live up to your name? What are your faith-goals? (Fr. Arlo Yap, SVD Bible Diary 2007)
“How does God look like?” asked Johnny during Sunday school. By now the catechist knew the precocious boy for his unusual questions, and thought it time to make him search for his own answers. So she replied, “Why not open out your heart to anyone in any way? Who knows, your eyes may also open to catch a glimpse of Him today?” As he walked from church through the park that Sunday morning, his groaning tummy begged him to sit on the nearest bench. An elderly woman, calmly seated on its other end, smiled at him as he pulled out his snacks from his knapsack. The boy smiled back, broke his sandwich, and offered her the other half.
When Johnny reached home, his mom asked as usual: “What did you learn in catechism class today?” the son exclaimed: “Oh, what a friendly smile and voice God has! I did not expect him to be a woman like you….”
At another home an elderly lady walked in as a family gathered together at table for noon meal. “So, grandma,” asked the smallest child, “How was your stroll in the park?” She exclaimed, “Oh, I had a delicious snacks with God this morning I did not expect Him to be as young as you….”
Where else can God be surely and better known than in the Temple?” thought the high priests as they worried at how many faithful Jews were walking away from Jerusalem….to listen to a bizarre hermit preaching and baptizing by the river Jordan. So they sent experts of Mosaic Law to question him about being the Messiah he was rumored to be.
“I’m not,” disclaimed the baptizer. “But he who has been promised of old to come is already among us. If, despite your erudite minds, your eyes fail to recognize Him, open your obdurate hearts!”
“It is only with the heart that one sees a right,” said the Little Prince (the short literary classic written by Antoine St. Exupery). Christmas celebrates the ‘one among you – unknown to you’ 9john 1:26), who reveals his saving presence through unlikely persons in unforeseen times and places. It is only a heart compassionately open to anyone that can recognize Emmanuel, the God hidden in our midst (Fr. Pio Estepa, SVD Bible Diary 2012).
Ulf Ekman and his wife Birgitta caused uproar in Sweden, a predominantly Protestant country, in March 2014 when Ulf announced their intention to convert to the Catholic Church. Their conversion produced such a spectacle and impact because they were not ordinary Christians converting to Catholicism. In 1983 in Uppsala, Ulf Ekman founded a Megachurch of Sweden called World of Life Church. He also helped in the establishment of more than 1,000 church communities in the former Soviet Union and founded Scandinavia´s biggest Bible School which produced more than 10,000 graduates. In fact, he was called “a pastor of pastors”.
In an interview with Luke Coppen (Catholic Herald, 24 April 2014), Ulf Ekman revealed how his quest for answers to pressing questions led him to the Catholic Church. It was in 1998 when he started wondering: “What are we really doing? What are we really part of? And where does this lead us? What will happen to the Free Church movement 100 or 150 years from now? How come that the historic churches, especially the Catholic Church, seemed to keep on going?” Intrigued by the stability and historicity of the Church, he began to study it and, in the process, met diff erent types of Catholics – from the conservatives to the charismatics. Such encounters opened his eyes, heart, and mind to the Catholic Church. Talking about his main reason for conversion to the Catholic Church, he later declared in that interview: “… I do feel that the reason for [my] being drawn into the Catholic Church is that I need – we need – what the Lord has given to the Catholic Church [for us] to live fully as Christians. That is why we want to be part of the Catholic Church.” When asked what he was looking forward to about being a Catholic, Ekman answered: “The sacramental life.
That is what I’ve been longing for…I’ve always had a strong sentiment for the sacraments, but when I started to discover what they really are and how they work I felt really on the outside looking in. I had a longing to participate in and to draw life from the sacraments in a way that I’ve not been able to do… So I would say that the fullness that the Lord has put in the Catholic Church – that is what I discovered and long for.”
His conversion to the Catholic Church, however, was not all that easy. Being the founder and leader of a community, Ekman’s outmost concern was his congregation and how its members would react to his decision to become a Catholic. He feared that many of the 3,300 members of his congregation in Uppsala would feel let down and he wanted to handle the situation properly as much as he could. So he had to take things slowly even if it was becoming clear to him that the Lord was leading him to the Catholic Church. There was also the question about his nancial upkeep given that his main source of income was from his ministry as a pastor. “Is this true or not? If this is true, then I have to act. If this is not true, then it will go away. But it was becoming more and more, not just a personal truth, but that there was truth here that I had to relate to.” And, as he realized that the call of the Lord was true, he stepped down from his post as pastor of his congregation; he and his wife were admitted nally to the Catholic Church on May 21, 2014.
Despite all that was at stake – the possible backlash from his followers, nancial uncertainty outside his pastoral ministry, etc., – Ekman, at the bottomline, was concerned solely about the truth to which he held on steadfastly. In a way, Ekman mirrors John the Baptist’s attitude in the gospel today: he held on faithfully to the truth of his identity as the “voice in the wilderness”, the Lord´s prophet and not the Messiah; and, his mission was to prepare for the way of the Messiah. He never wavered in his proclamation of the truth and in witnessing to the Messiah. Iquodigent ut esse. (Ronnie R. Crisostomo, SVD | DWS Tagaytay City Bible Diary 2016)
1 JUAN 2:22-28. Unsa man ang kamatuoran nga angay natong huptan ug ipasa sa atong mga kabataan? Ang unang sulat ni San Juan nagtudlo nga si Hesus mao ang Kristo, ang Manluluwas nga maghatag kanato og kinabuhing walay katapusan. Kini mao ang kamatuoran. Adunay moingon nga ang kwarta ug bahandi maoy atong kaluwasan ug kalipay; ang uban magdasig nga ang alkohol, droga ug sex maoy makapawala sa atong problema ug maghatag og himaya; samtang ang laing uban moangkon nga sila mismo maoy magdala’g grasya ug kalamboan sa katawhan. Kini sila ang mga modernong bakakon ug kaaway ni Kristo. Dili nato sila paminawon. Si Hesus lamang ang atong Dios ug Manluluwas. Siya ang atong simbahon, paminawon ug sundon matag adlaw sa atong kinabuhi ug hangtod sa kahangtoran.
JUAN 1:19-28. Unsaon man nato pagdawat ang mga pasidungog sa mga tawo? Ang mga tawo nagtan-aw kang Juan nga usa ka bantogang propeta. Daghan ang naghunahuna nga siya mao ang Mesiyas. Mahimo niyang dawaton kining maong pagdayeg ug pahimuslan ang sayop nga pagtoo sa mga tawo. Apan wala kini buhata ni Juan. Hinoon, gisultihan niya ang mga tawo sa iyang tinuod nga papel nga mao ang pag-andam sa dalan nga agian sa Ginoo. Talagsaon kining kinaiya nga gipakita ni Juan tungod kay kadaghanan sa mga tawo gusto man nga daygon ug yukboan. Ang panig-ingnan ni Juan magdasig kanato sa pagpabiling matinud-anon ug mapaubsanon bisan kon kita mapuno na sa pagdayeg sa mga tawo. Hinumduman nato nga ang tanang kaayo nagagikan sa Ginoo, ug kon wala Siya, wala usab kitay mahimo. Posted by Abet Uy
REFLECTION: One could say that today celebrates friendship–friendship at its best. For indeed the two saints we are remembering today, Sts. Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, were great friends, even ideal friends one could say. Born around the year 330 in the Roman province of Asia Minor (present-day Turkey), they were students together in Athens, then the intellectual capital of the world, and later became monks, living together in the same monastery—therefore sharing the same basic ideal of becoming perfect lovers of God and neighbor. However, they had quite different personalities. They were even opposites in a sense—which proves that great friends can be as different as night and day. Basil was an organizer, a man of action, whereas Gregory was more of a contemplative and a poet. Eventually both were made bishops. Basil was a great fighter of the heresy called Arianism. Gregory after a while found the public life too much for him and retired to a quiet place called Nazianzen.
To have a close friend is to be blessed indeed, for it is to have someone who will always love us and help us to become better persons.
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