23 June 2012

WONDERFULLY MADE

Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist
Lk 1:57-66, 80 (Is 49:1-6 / Ps 139 / Acts 13:22-26)

We celebrate today the Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist.  This feast is indeed very special.  We do not celebrate the birth of saints.  We celebrate their pious death instead because that is their entrance into eternal life and, therefore, glorious victory over sin and death itself.  We have two exceptions from this liturgical norm though: the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the birth of John the Baptist.  The importance of celebrating the birth of the Lord’s precursor is even more highlighted by the fact that though it is Sunday today – and all Sundays are solemnities of the Lord (they are “little Easters” so to speak) – the liturgy today nonetheless dictates that we say the Mass of the Solemnity of John the Baptist’s Birth instead of the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

The Psalm for today’s solemnity is Psalm 139.  This is a very famous Psalm.  We sing it often in the liturgy:

Yahweh, I know you are near,
standing always at my side.
You guard me from the foe,
and you lead me in ways everlasting.

Lord, you have searched my heart,
and you know when I sit and when I stand.
Your hand is upon me protecting me from death,
keeping me from harm.

Where can I run from Your love?
If I climb to the heavens You are there;
If I fly to the sunrise or sail beyond the sea,
still I'd find You there.

You know my heart and its ways,
you who formed me before I was born
in the secret of darkness before I saw the sun
in my mother's womb.

Marvelous to me are Your works;
how profound are Your thoughts, my Lord.
Even if I could count them, they number as the stars,
You would still be there.
(“Yahweh, I Know You Are Near” by Dan Schutte)


How beautiful this song is!  Every creature should have this prayer on its lips.

As we remember the holy birth of John the Baptist, whose name means “God is gracious”, we are led to reflect on the mystery of our own birth.  We stand in awe before our Creator and, in gratitude and adoration, we respond to Psalm 139 with “I praise You, for I am wonderfully made.”  Now, how many of us really uttered that response straight from the heart?  (Let us have a show of hands!)  How many of us here are truly amazed and thankful to God for wonderfully making us?  Do you believe that you are really wonderful?  Do you think the person next to you is also wonderful?  Those who are convinced that he or she is wonderful, please declare with me, this time as sincerely and loudly as we can: “I praise You, for I am wonderfully made!”

John the Baptist – whom Jesus once referred to as “most blest of all born of women” (Cf. Mt 11:11 and Lk 7:28) – was a wonderful creation of God.  He was God’s answer to his parents’ prayer.  He was a miracle himself, being born of a mother who was not only supposed to be beyond the age of conception but also barren.  He was a prophet of God’s mercy to His People, calling them to a change of heart so that the promised Christ might find a people worthy of His coming.  John did not only speak about the Messiah, he actually pointed Him to the people, declaring, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (Cf. Jn 1:29).  And when it was time for him to bow out, he did it graciously, humbly asserting, “He (Jesus) must increase while I must decrease” (Cf. Jn 3:30).  As he lived so did he die: a witness, a martyr.  John the Baptist was a wonderful creature of God who lived a wonderful life.  Jesus is the Word; John is the voice.

Each of us is a wonder of God’s creative power and loving plan.  We ought to live wonderful lives, too.  In doing so, we give witness not only to our wonderful Creator but also to how wonderfully He indeed created us.  I read this somewhere: “We enter the world with what we are given; we leave it with what we have given.”  What has each of us given to the world so far?  Can it honestly be said that we affect the world and one another as wonderfully as we were created?  We are God’s wonders; let us, therefore, make the world a wonderful place for all to live in.  We are miracles of God; let us make miracles by our love for one another.  For I believe in miracles, and they all begin with an act of love.

Today, we celebrate how wonderfully God made John the Baptist.  But our celebration of St. John the Baptist’s birthday does us no good if we ourselves do not strive to show proofs that we, like him, are wonderfully made by God, too.

Let us affirm one another.  Please tell the person next to you: “You are wonderful!  You are God-sent!”  That is not just as statement; that is a mandate.

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