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Father Muench Says...

John the Baptist’s vocation was Advent

Dec. 11, 2019

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

It is Advent. Let us take a moment to remember St. John the Baptist. John’s vocation was Advent. He came to prepare the world for the coming of Jesus. Personally, St. John the Baptist is one of my favorite saints. In many ways, his vocation is the same as mine. As a priest, I am called to bring Jesus to others. John the Baptist is a true guide for me, both as a preacher, and as an evangelist. Actually, every disciple of Jesus is called to this vocation – to bring Jesus to others, to bring Jesus’ love and peace to others. Such is our call as a Catholic. I know you know this story, but let us again remember John the Baptist.

John was called the Baptist because he used a baptism of water as a sign in his mission. It was truly a clever idea. Remember that this style of baptism of John was not the same as the Baptism of Jesus – our Sacrament of Baptism – our sacrament of dedication and new life with the Lord. John made it clear that he was not the Messiah and one greater than he would come after him who would baptize in the power of the Holy Spirit.

John the Baptist preached to the people on the shores of the Jordan River. He urged the people to change their lives, to be better people, to make their world a better place and to prepare themselves for the coming of the Savior. As a sign of acceptance and a reminder of this experience, John invited them into the river and plunged them into the water as a baptism of faith and repentance. This was something to be remembered for a lifetime.

We are told in Matthew’s Gospel that one day Jesus came to where John was speaking. Jesus got in line with the others to be baptized by John. John was well aware of Jesus’ identity. In fact, John wanted Jesus to baptize him.

However, Jesus insists he wants to join with all those coming to John. It does become a supernatural moment. We are told that the Holy Spirit comes upon Jesus. A voice from Heaven is heard, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased. (Matt 3:17)

Later, in Matthew’s Gospel, we learn that John the Baptist was placed in prison, as he had been criticizing the king. While in prison, John wants his disciples to discover Jesus as Messiah. So, he sends them to ask Jesus if he is the one who is to come. Jesus answers with words of the Old Testament prophets. He says this: “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” (Matt.11:4)

Jesus then goes on speaking to the people, saying: “This is the one about whom it is written ‘Behold I am sending my messenger ahead of you, he will prepare your way before you.” Jesus adds to this: “I say to you, among those born of woman there has been none greater than John the Baptist.”

St. John’s Gospel, chapter 3, tells us that before John’s imprisonment, John was teaching his disciples about Jesus. “No one can receive anything except what has been given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said that I am not the Messiah, but that I was sent before him. The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens to him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. So the joy of mine has been made complete. (John 3:22-29)

John the Baptist ends his teaching by saying, “He must increase, I must decrease.”

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