THE SHEPHERD’S VOICE
This Sunday gives us a wonderful opportunity to consider John the Baptist, and I have come to realize more and more clearly that he is a great person to study- and to emulate. Jesus himself rated John to be “the greatest among those born of woman.”
I will admit I have been slow to appreciate John, because I allowed myself to be put off by externals. John cut a strange figure, even in his own time. His desert life, animal skin clothing, and peculiar diet mark him as very different. He really has become the comic image of those who predict the nearness of the end of the world. If we were to encounter this man on Avenue N, we would laugh or run in the other direction.
His message too could strike us as extreme: “Repent and be baptized. The kingdom of God is at hand.” He seems a bit scary, someone we would avoid.
But what about the man himself? This is where I am impressed. John was a man of integrity; he told the truth as he saw it, even when he knew it would be rejected and earn him enemies. One was Herod Antipas, who was in awe of John and afraid of him and ultimately took his life. Still, John never wavered in his witness; he was a man of profound courage.
John knew his role: he was to prepare the way for someone else, someone greater who was already on his way, the Messiah. He never lost sight of his purpose, and never made claims for himself. For all his greatness of character, he remained deeply humble. “There is one coming who is greater than I, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to loosen.” He must increase; I must decrease.”
This is a man who discerned his true calling and lived it with intensity. This is a model for us all.
In the Good Shepherd,
Fr. Tom Leach