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December 8, 2013

About two weeks before Christmas, a little Catholic boy decided to write a letter to Santa. He started "Dear Santa," then he thought, "No, I will go to a higher authority." So he decided to write a letter to Jesus. "Dear Jesus, if you get me an XBOX for Christmas, I will be good for two week." "NO, NO, NO, NO, I can't be good for two weeks", he thought to himself. So he started all over again. "Dear Jesus, if you get me an XBOX for Christmas I will be good for one week." "NO, NO, NO, I can't be good for one week", he thought to himself.

So he quickly ran to the study room and grabbed the statue of Mary, and quickly wrapped it up in a blanket.
He started all over again. "Dear Jesus, I have your mother...if you ever want to see her again...get me an XBOX for Christmas!"

John the Baptist was a “Christmas present” for the people of Israel at that time. More than 400 years, people had not heard the voice of any prophets. In John the prophetic voice spoke again. That explains why the Jews flocked to the Jordan River, listened to John and let him dunk them into the murky water. Here John proclaimed: “the Messiah is coming.” For the Jews, there was no better news than that.

John the Baptist is also a “Christmas gift” to us. The Gospels introduce him as a strange image who heralds the coming of the Messiah. He did not only preach, but demonstrated his message by his own life. First of all, as a son of a priest with authority in the Temple, he abandoned his status and lived in the wilderness with God’s creatures.

Secondly he spoke the message fearlessly and denounced evil wherever he might find it. If King Herod sinned by contracting an evil and unlawful marriage, John rebuked him. If the Sadducees and Pharisees, who were church leaders, were sunk in ritualistic formalism and did not fulfil their vocation, John never hesitated to say so. If the ordinary people were living a life without God, John would tell them so. His message was simple, “Repent, the Kingdom of God is near.”

Thirdly, John urgently encouraged people to go even higher in denunciation in order to welcome the Messiah. The people asked him ‘what should I do?’ His answer was very bold but also very practical: “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.”

Fourthly, John pointed beyond himself. While the people thought that John was the Messiah or a great prophet from the past, he denied it, “I am not.” It was not himself he wished people to come to. He prepared them for the one who was to come. And when the Messiah came, John retreated himself as he confessed: “I’m not worthy to carry his sandals!” What a great Saint John was!

I hope that you (and me) may find some positive points in John the Baptist’s life and apply it to our own.

Maranatha, Come, Lord Jesus!