Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
In a sense, we should all be John the Baptist. John heralded the first coming of Jesus, “by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.” Our mission is greater–we need to herald the second coming of Jesus by proclaiming a higher baptism to all the world. But what does this mean? It is easy to confuse John’s preaching with prophets of doom who stand on streetcorners. Yet, the last word of our preaching should never be doom, but hope.
When we proclaim baptism to all the world, we proclaim God’s loving nearness. In his book Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict notes that when Jesus accepts John’s baptism, He “expresses solidarity with men, who have incurred guilt but yearn for righteousness.” The Son of God announced through John that He would not be kept apart from human beings, with all their sins. Through the sacrament of baptism, Jesus likewise makes it clear that He wishes to continue to have solidarity with human beings. The Father continually wants to adopt us as His sons and daughters, and Jesus continually wants to call us His brothers and sisters.
The baptism we proclaim is nothing less than the Trinity drawing us into its love and calling us equals. It is a love that does not ignore sin, but neither is it a love that is put off by sin. God’s love is quite tenacious. And it is expansive. In the first reading, God speaks through Isaiah, telling Israel that “I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” This is likewise our mission–to tell the entire world that God wishes to be near to it. We are to be a sign to everyone we meet that God wants to save them, and wants nothing more than to call them son and daughter, sister and brother.