Grace to you!
Today we celebrate the birthday of John the Baptist. It’s a thing of joy to be part of the Church that is in communion with the saints in heaven. John is for believers, a model of true evangelization.
Notice that today is six months to the celebration of the birthday of the Lord (Christmas). The Church brings the historical events of our salvation in view to us. We are constantly reminded that our faith is also a historical reality. It isn’t only a mystery. We are dealing with historical facts too.
John the Baptist had two principal missions: In the spirit of Elijah, “prepare the way for the Lord” (Lk 1:17; Mt 3:1-4; Mk 1:3-4, Jn 1:22-23; see also Is 40:3-4) and point the Lord (Jesus Christ) out to the people when he comes (Jn 1:29). He knew exactly his mission in life. He kept to that mission and would not waver when the temptations to derail were strong and persistent.
When numerous people from Jerusalem and in Judea came trooping to him, and many may have thought he was the messiah, he didn’t fail to let them know he was unworthy to untie the straps of the messiah’s shoes. (Mt 3:11). When the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem sent delegates (priests and Levites) to confirm if he were the Christ, he insisted “I am not the messiah,” (Jn 1:19-20). Also, he will ask his loyal disciples (two who were with him when Jesus was walking by) to leave him and follow Jesus, the Lamb of God, to whom he (John) bears witness (Jn 1:35-37). With John, there is no room for rivalry.
In his testimony, he pointed out to the people that he is simply a voice bearing witness to the Christ. Not only did he bear witness through his words and actions, in the end, he gave his life. He was beheaded for bearing witness to the truth (Mt 14:1-12; Mk 6:14-29).
In John the Baptist, we see a true archetype of Christian witnessing. Evangelization is bearing witness to God revealed in Christ (Pope Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, no. 26). Saint Pope John Paul II also writes that the first form of evangelization is to bear witness about the Christ (Redemptoris Missio, nn. 42-43). We do so through our life, words and actions.
John the Baptist thoroughly did so. From him we learn that a true witness has to be certain about what their mission in life is; and why we are here. If one is not certain about who they are and their place in God’s life, it would be difficult to be bold about their testimony.
Authenticity is key to boldness. In a more modern language, we call it self-confidence. Another way to describe it is positive self-image. Unless a believer has a positive self-image about their identity as children of God, and what their mission is in this divine service, it would be difficult to be authentic witnesses.
How could we grow in this, one may ask? If you haven’t received the first grace of faith, begin by sincerely asking the Lord Jesus Christ to open your heart and your eyes to see. He will. If you’ve already received the first gift of faith, ask for a deeper faith in Christ in whom you have been baptized. Ask for and hold on to the deeper love and grace of the Holy Spirit so you will fall in love with God more and more. Develop a personal relationship with Christ. Regular prayer life oils that relationship.
The more we grow in the interior life, that is the life of the Spirit, the more confident we become about who we are. God love-knowledge is the answer to true self-discovery and knowledge. It is an elixir for incredible self-confidence. All possible by God’s grace. God graciously pours for us the favor of his life.
Personally, I know this. Over the years, I have seen it in the lives of many who are in love with God. Their confidence level grows as their love deepens.
When St. Teresa of Avila says, “Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone suffices”, she was bearing witness to this height of confidence that nothing takes away. Only God matters. When St. Theresa of the Child Jesus says, “I have found him whom my soul loves”, she was testifying that her Love is Christ, and by finding her love, she seeks for nothing else. Her confidence was settled on a rock. When Robert Cardinal Sarah wrote “God or Nothing,” he may have been writing from this inner confidence of one who has witnessed the glory of which nothing else is as important. When St. Catherine of Sienna says, “Nothing else can satisfy me except God,” echoing St. Augustine’s “our hearts find rest only in God”; she was bearing witness to the reality of true inner joy and confidence of the believer.
You do not need a certificate course or degree in theology or evangelization to be a true witness of Christ. You also do not need to go through the rigors of seminary training or be ordained a priest or professed a religious for you to be a bold witness. Rather, you may be surprised that too much head-knowledge without heart in love takes away the passion and the confidence of true witnessing. You simply need to fall in love with Christ. Know who you are in God. If you do, you cannot but testify about the glory you’ve seen.
There is a secondary value to this kind of self-awareness. It helps us to overcome envy and jealousy in the community of faith. When we know our place in God’s plan, everything will become like a chamber music ensemble. Everybody will be adding their unique piece to the orchestra. Every string will matter, and every tempo will be important for a beautiful melody and play. No one would ignore what they have in vain pursuit and malicious envy of what others have. We realize who we are and what we bring to the table. We also realize how what we bring is unique and is sufficient for us. By so doing, we praise God for what others bring. After all, it’s all to God and his glory. God’s glory is blessing for all.
John the Baptist is a true model of Christian witnessing today. We learn from him as we celebrate his birthday.
Praying that God will give us the grace to discover ourselves and our mission in life. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Nativity of Saint John the Baptist: Is 49:1-6; Acts 13:22-26; Lk 1:57-66, 80]
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.