Friday, June 22, 2012

Fr. Wells' Bulletin Inserts

John the Baptist  June 24

Coming exactly six months before Christmas, the Birthday of Christ, we
celebrate the Birthday of His Cousin and Forerunner, St John Baptist.  The placement of these two holy days in the calendar represents a happy
coincidence.  The Baptist said (John 4:30), “He must increase, but I must decrease.” The Birthday of Christ falls just after the winter solstice,
the “shortest day of the year,” the time when we have the least daylight
to enjoy, but when we know that the days will begin to get longer.  The
increase of sunlight proclaims the gradual revelation of the Saviour’s

But the birthday of the Forerunner comes just after the summer solstice,
when the days are long and we are reminded that daytime will begin to
diminish.  The natural order itself serves to illustrate the Baptist’s
pronouncement, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

This cryptic saying of this strange man refers to the progressive
magnification of Christ:  first in His resurrection, ascension, and
enthronement at His Father’s right hand; next as His earthly reign
advances in history; and finally as He, through the agency of His Spirit,
transforms wretched sinners into glorious saints.  When the Baptist made that prophecy, all of this lay in the future.  His hearers, puzzled and incredulous, did not foresee the exaltation of Christ shortly to be
accomplished before their every eyes.  We likewise do not see the activity of Christ here and now.

When John said, “I must decrease,” he was speaking of the end of the Old Testament era, when the Temple, its sacrifices, and even prophecy itself would shortly come to an end.  He was speaking moreover of his own temporary role as the Forerunner of the King who reigns forever.  In a larger sense he was speaking for all of us, as Christ grows in us, the
image of God is restored, and we are reduced to our proper size.  We must be humbled in order to be exalted.

For St John Baptist, this was all a matter of consummate joy.  In John 4,
he spoke of Christ as the bridegroom (the One who takes the Church as His bride, His beloved).  Therefore he spoke of himself as “the bridegroom’s friend,” the “best man.”  John declared, “The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.”

Proud arrogant rebels that we are, the Gospel of Jesus Christ comes as
utter embarrassment and humiliation to creatures utterly unable to escape from our predicament.  We are lost and cannot find our way home. What fools we are!  But when we, with St John Baptist, hear the Bridegroom’s voice, as He comes to woo us, claim us as His own, and  take us to His home, then we too may say with certainty, “this joy of mine is now complete.”    May we be diminished that Christ be enlarged.            LKW

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