The grace and peace of our Lord Jesus be with you all.
I was asked by our Father General, to prepare a sermon for today- June 24,2012. When deciding upon a topic, I reflected that today is the celebration of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist. A significant day for which to write a sermon for a mostly clerical audience, as many would consider Saint John the Baptist the first “real” preacher to the common people.
As the Archangel Gabriel had foretold the Annunciation of our Lord to Mary, so to did Gabriel appear to the father of John the Baptist, Zechariah, and tell of his coming birth. Gabriel gave biblical prominence to John, telling his father; “many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.” (Luke 1:14-15) “He will bring back many people to their God […] and go before the Lord […] and turn their hearts […] to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:16-17)
Even after her own visit from Gabriel, when Mary learned of Elizabeth’s pregnancy (Zechariah’s wife, mother of John and Mary’s own relative) she went to visit them, congratulate and spend time before the birth. It is even reported that when Mary arrived, Saint John “leapt in the womb” (Luke 1:44) with great joy and knowledge that Mary was carrying the Christ child even then. So it is even before the birth of either that these two souls, cousins, were destined for God’s service and forever bound together in history.
“[a]s it is written in Isaiah the prophet: I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way- a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare they way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mark 1:2-4)
John becomes the Baptizer, fulfilling his purpose charged to him by God; attracting large crowds in the wilderness, preaching the Word and preparing the way for the Lord. At first many thought John himself might be the long awaited Messiah, but he reminds them that: “After me comes one more powerful then I, the straps of whose sandals I am not even worthy to unties. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1:7-8)
John even feels uncomfortable and unworthy when Jesus presents himself to be baptized. John recognizes Jesus as “the lamb of God who has come to take away the sins of the world!” (John 1:29) “John gives his testimony: ‘I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. […] The one who called me to baptize with water told me, ‘The one who you see the Spirit come down and remain upon, is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. I have seen and testify that this is God’s Chosen One.” (John 1:32-34)
Biblical prophecy is fulfilled. Christ is baptized by Saint John in the River Jordan and begins the ministry that will forever change the world and the hearts of men. Even up to his crucifixion and his glorious resurrection, Christ has charged those He has called to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded of you. And truly I am with you, even until the end of all time.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
So in all of this we learn we, those of us men and women religious who have felt called by Christ, have ourselves become the new “voice of one calling in the wilderness”. It will be our voices, and that of our Church- God’s Church, that will call out to others the Good News. It will be our voices- our actions, our deeds, our love; that will serve to bring others to know and love Christ. We are the new baptizers! Charged by the call of God within our heart, and the inspiration of our Bishops and clerical mentors, that we venture out into the “wilderness” to proclaim the kingdom of God!
Almighty God, we pray that you give your grace upon our voices. Make our words clear and strong. Make our words one of love, mercy and compassion. Make our voices many, as we join together with out brother and sisters in The Reformed Catholic Church; to call out into this “wilderness” that God is with us today and his message of love and hope lives! Baptize upon us anew, your Holy Spirit to stengthen, guide and inspire us. For as we are now in all these things, your messengers and servants. We pray this with humble hearts, in the name of our Lord; our Savior and our salvation, Jesus Christ. Amen.