The Nativity of John the Baptist
Mother Teresa relates this incident from her life… Once a man came to the home for the dying in Calcutta, and just walked straight into the ward. Mother Teresa was sitting there. A while later the man came to Mother Teresa and said to her, “I came here with so much hate in my heart – hate for God and hate for man.” “I came here empty and embittered.” “I saw a Sister giving her wholehearted attention to that patient there and realized that God still lives.” “Now I go out a different man.” “I believe there is a God and he loves us still.”
That sister paved the way for God in that embittered man’s life. John the Baptist, whose birth or nativity we celebrate today, was the voice that was making the way straight for the Lord – as foretold by the prophet Isaiah. John’s greatest mission was to prepare the way of the Lord. He facilitated the coming of Jesus. He paved the way for the Lord’s coming by his austere life, preaching and death.
Like John the Baptist, we are “to prepare the way of the Lord.” God wants to come to the lives of people; but people are often not prepared to receive him. Hence, we must, by the way we live and by the way we preach, prepare them to receive the Lord who comes.
To prepare the way of the Lord, we must make straight his paths. Bishop Bacani says, “The way of the Lord to human heart is marred by the crookedness of the paths he must pass to come to us.” Ang daan na dapat sanang dinaraanan ng Panginoon patungo sa puso natin ay liku-liko at baku-bako.
Indeed, there is so much crookedness in ourselves and in our society. Think of the crookedness of those who separate faith from life – people who profess to believe in God but live as though God does not exist. Think of the priority or premium given in our society to appearances and images over substance and character. Think of the distorted sense of values that we have imbibed in ourselves as manifested in our worldly affairs and materialistic attitudes. Think of our extreme family-centeredness (pamilya ko muna, bago ang Bayan) that has caused the neglect of the common good. Think of the greed of the rich and powerful that has robbed the poor of their dignity and rights.
Again, like John the Baptist, we are “to prepare the way of the Lord.”
We must prepare the way of the Lord to our family weakened by coldness and apathy, by squabble and bickering, by envy and jealousy, by bitterness and unforgiveness. How? By always initiating meaningful dialogue and by being more patient and forgiving.
We must prepare the way of the Lord to our children bombarded by the distorted values of materialism, distracted by gadgets and social media, and lacking any sense of sacrifice and self-renunciation. How? By being role models to our children – living out the gospel values and becoming more prayerful.
We must prepare the way of the Lord to our sisters and brothers hungry for the Word of God and thirsty for God’s presence, or so caught up with worldly things and engrossed in self-indulgence, or burdened by worries, fears and anxieties. How? By bringing Jesus to them, and helping them to fall in love with Jesus.
We must prepare the way of the Lord to our neighborhood characterized by a lack of concern for one another, and made ugly by gossiping and backbiting. How? By building basic ecclesial communities – rooted in the Word of God and the Eucharist, in communion with one another, and in mission, serving others.
We must prepare the way of the Lord to our nation deeply divided and desperate for real change, threatened by trolls, bashers, bullies and fake news, darkened by extra-judicial killings and character assassination, and tyrannized by someone fomenting antagonism towards the Church. How? By promoting the kingdom of God and its values, working for peace that is based on social justice.
John the Baptist lived differently from the world of his time. We are also called not to conform ourselves to this world. We prepare the way of the Lord not when we conform to the world’s standards but when we challenge people and ask them to have a change of mind and heart. Let us strive to be like John the Baptist… Dare to be different… and make a difference!
As we celebrate his birth, let us allow St. John the Baptist to inspire us… so that, like him, may we make our whole life only about Jesus and only for Jesus.