Homily for August 29th, 2015:
John the Baptist
Not quite 57 years ago, on the afternoon of October 28th, 1958, an elderly cardinal named Angelo Roncalli was elected Bishop of Rome. When he was asked what name he would take as Pope, he replied: AI will be called John.@ It was the first of many surprises. There had not been a pope of that name for over six hundred years. Almost all of them had short pontificates, John told his electors. He was then just short of 77. He would die only four and a half years later, on the day after Pentecost 1963.
He loved the name John, the new Pope said, because it had been borne by the two men in the gospels who were closest to Jesus: John the Baptist, who prepared the way for the Lord and, as we have just heard in the gospel reading, shed his blood in witness to the One he proclaimed; and John the Evangelist, called throughout the gospel which bears his name Athe disciple whom Jesus loved.@
The name John means, AGod is gracious,@ or AGod has given grace.@ The name was singularly appropriate for the man we know as John the Baptist. He was commissioned even before his birth to proclaim the One who would give God a human face, and a human voice: Jesus Christ.
God called each of us in our mother=s womb. He fashioned us in his own image, as creatures made for love: to praise, worship, and serve God here on earth, and to be happy with him forever in heaven. Fulfilling that destiny, given to us not just at birth but at our conception, means heeding the words which today=s saint, John the Baptist, spoke about Jesus: AHe must increase, I must decrease@ (John 3:3).
Those are the most important words which
the Baptist ever spoke. In just six words they sum up the whole life of
Christian discipleship. Imprint those words on your mind, your heart, your
soul. Resolve today to try to make them a reality in daily life. Those who do
that find that they have discovered the key to happiness, to fulfillment, and
to peace. AHe must increase, I must decrease.@ St. John