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Father Muench Says...

Advent with John the Baptist

Dec. 14, 2022

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

I love Advent. I love St. John the Baptist. I once visited, several years ago, the place along the Jordan River in Israel where they believe John the Baptist preached and baptized. I remember that as part of the visit I was asked to walk out into the river and pour some of the river water over the heads of some of the people in our group – a baptism like that of John. It was to be a renewal of their own baptisms. That visit was rather special for me. I still remember all that I did there. I truly walked in the footsteps of St. John the Baptist.

I know that you have heard the story, however, today, I would like to remember with you St. John the Baptist and his story as we continue to celebrate this time of Advent and prepare ourselves for Christmas. John the Baptist was a cousin of Jesus. I often try to imagine what they talked about when they were together. It would be so interesting to have listened to their conversations.

The Gospels make it very clear that they knew each other well. We are told that on one occasion Jesus asked John to baptize him with the other people. We are told that John said to Jesus that he, Jesus, should baptize him. However, Jesus wanted John to realize that this was his moment to dedicate himself and his life here on earth. And he humbled did this by being baptized by the Baptist himself.

John was given the grace to recognize Jesus as the promised Messiah. John realized that the Holy Spirit had chosen him to announce to the world the Lord’s coming and to prepare the way for his coming. We are told that on one occasion John actually pointed out Jesus to his own disciples, sending them to spend some time with Jesus.

When John was imprisoned, he sent his disciples to Jesus so they would recognize how important Jesus was as the long-awaited Messiah. They listened as Jesus identified himself in the words of the Prophet Isaiah, who wrote of the coming of the Messiah as Savior centuries before the birth of Jesus. John, in prison, realized that his life was in danger, and he wanted his disciples to discover Jesus and to follow him as disciples.

The ministry of John the Baptist was so wonderful. He preached to those people – and also to us – to repent, to change what must be changed in our lives, so that we live well, so that we make our lives all that they should be, so that we live better and make our world a better place in every way we could.

John also came to give the people who came to him a way to remember their promise of repentance: he asked them to walk into the river with him and he baptized them, pushing them under the waters of the Jordan River. John made it very clear that his baptism was a baptism of repentance.

John preached to them that there would be one who would come after him who would baptize with Spirit and fire. This is our baptism – our call to dedicate ourselves to the God, to walk with Jesus on the road to holiness. In baptism, we accept the challenge to dedicate ourselves to become a saint.

On the road to becoming a saint, remember that it is all about the little things. I believe that the Lord places into our lives so many opportunities to walk with him, to live our lives well. We are called to forgive others, our neighbors. As followers of Jesus we must always be ready to bring happiness to another, to bring the peace of Jesus through our lives and to our world in every little way that is ours.

So, we are to find the way. Our guide and our Advent patron, St. John the Baptist, puts it this way: “He must increase, I must decrease.”

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