Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
Nativity of John the Baptist: God’s Plan For Us
Today’s celebration, the Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist, has two sets of readings, one for the vigil Masses on Saturday, and one for the Sunday Masses.
When I went over the readings, I was first struck by a phrase in 1 Peter, during the vigil Mass. Peter says that the ancient prophets did not serve themselves but served us. That caught my attention. The exact quote is:
“It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you with regard to the things that have now been announced to you by those who preached the Good News to you through the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels longed to look.”
The prophets were called by God for this special mission. Two of them were called from their mothers’ wombs. We come upon Jeremiah in Saturday’s first reading saying about himself and, really, about another, “I was set aside from my mother’s womb.” Similarly, Isaiah says in Sunday’s first reading, “The Lord called me from birth from my mother’s womb.”
John the Baptist was called from his mother’s womb. The annunciation of his conception to Zechariah in the Temple, Saturday’s Gospel, and the naming of the child with the name provided by God, Sunday’s Gospel, point out that God had a special mission for John to fulfill. When Mary visited Elizabeth, Elizabeth exclaimed, “The baby in my womb stirred when we heard the sound of your voice.” Today’s feast points out that from the first moment of his life, John was an integral part of God’s plan.
Another prophet, the greatest of the Old Testament Prophets, Elijah, would meet with Jesus and Moses on the Mountain of the Transfiguration to discuss God’s plan. The last book of the Old Testament prophets, the Book of Malachi, says that Elijah would come again to prepare the way for God’s plans. The Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, say that John the Baptist is Elijah come once again.
God’s plan for man’s salvation was first revealed by the prophets. It was set into motion when Mary agreed to be the mother of the Son of God at the Annunciation, and it was announced to the world by John when he proclaimed in his preaching that Jesus was the Lamb of God.
But the plan is not complete. Nor have all the players in God’s great drama assumed their roles. The plan will not be complete until the entire world embraces the Kingdom of God. The plan will not be complete until each of us and those who come after us assume our own mission in salvation history.
We are called to do far more than just witness God’s wonders. We are also part of God’s plan. We have a function, a responsibility to the Kingdom. What exactly is your role? What is my role? We know in general, but the specifics become more evident as life progresses. In general, I am a priest, and therefore I have a role as an intermediary for God’s people. You may be married. Therefore, in general, your role is to find God in your spouse and allow him or her to find God in you. You may be a parent. Therefore, in general, your role is to lead your children to God. You may be single. Therefore, in general, your role is to give witness to the world as a dedicated Christian and moral single. You may be a Teen. Therefore you have a role to prepare for your future so you can assume your responsibilities as a leader in the faith.
These are our general roles in God’s plan, but how about our specific roles? These evolve with life as we become more aware of our individual gifts. Once we know what our talents are, we must use them for God. This priest might be skilled at caring for those in prison. He needs to make this part of his life even if he has other responsibilities. That priest can care for sick children and their parents, even if they are not within his parish. He is obliged to reach out to them. This spouse has developed a talent for recognizing other’s needs and caring for them. Now he needs to use this to care for his own wife who is seriously ill. That parent has learned how to motivate her children. She cannot say, “They are now in college. My work is done.” She needs to keep using her talent for the Kingdom of God. That single has developed fantastic organizational skills. She needs to use her talent to meet the needs of many within her parish. This Teen has developed great talent in music, both singing and writing. He needs to use this to minister to his own peers as well as those older then him.
We are all part of God’s plan. Like John we have been named by God. This took place at our baptism. We have been given the mission to lead the world to God, in ways general to our state of life and specific to our own talents. Like John, we have a responsibility to use our lives to point to the Savior.