Being a Catholic in today’s world can present many a challenge. Take a look at the Ten Commandments then see, in the news and, sadly, in what often passes for the entertainment media, how so many of God’s Laws are openly flouted. One may well be regarded as very ‘uncool’ among one’s peers, for instance, perhaps even among some fellow-Christians, should one manifestly live according to the Moral Teachings of the Church. Should a person have the moral strength to promote these laws and point out how they are so often ‘watered down’ or simply disregarded, they may, paradoxically, be labelled ‘unchristian’. Our First Communicants, the Church of the Future, will, next Sunday, look towards the vital role which they, too, are called to play as they ‘Go Forth’. Let us pray for them and their Parents, that they will not falter in their God-given Mission!
Today, though a Sunday, the Church ‘sets aside’ Ordinary Time and focuses our attention on a man who, most certainly, would not have many fans today, rather probably many enemies! During his own lifetime, his preaching of the unchangeable Truth landed him in prison and eventually cost him his life! Saint John the Baptist, whose nativity (or birth) we celebrate today, was truly, as should we all be, ‘a Sign of Contradiction’. Today’s readings emphasise the qualities required of a practising Catholic. John is ‘introduced’, so to speak, in the Entrance Antiphon (John 1: 6-7; Luke 1:17), ‘…He came to testify to the Light, to prepare a people fit…’ for Christ’s Coming. In the First Reading, we hear the familiar prophecy of John’s Mission by the Prophet Isaiah (49:1-6): the Baptist, chosen as the Last of the Prophets, is to preach incisively, cutting through evil like, ‘…a sharp sword…’ penetrating to the Truth like ‘…a sharpened arrow…’. His task is to form God’s Chosen People, equipping them for the mission (in which we are, today, through Baptism, called to join) to be ‘…the light of the nations…’ spreading the Truth world wide.
The Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 138: 1-3, 13-15 response v 14)) is a beautiful hymn of praise to our Creator who, ever lovingly watchful, knows us better than we know ourselves, offering us His Grace if we will accept and cooperate with it.
The Second Reading (Acts 13:22-26) highlights Jesus’ descent from King David, ‘… a man after my (God’s) own heart…’ and John the Baptist, his humble herald, who was only too aware of his ‘littleness’ before the Lord whose Coming he was announcing. How often is one guilty of the sin of pride in refusing to accept ‘…the way of the Lord…’?
The Alleluia Verse (cf Lk. 1:76) quotes John’s father Zechariah’s words (as we may pray them in the Prayer, the Benedictus) again echoing the Old Testament Prophecy of John’s coming Mission.
From St. Bart's
Thoughts on the traditional teachings, devotions, seasons and matters of the Catholic Church