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Father Muench Says...

Time with St. John the Baptist

December 6, 2023

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Today, as I often do at the beginning of Advent, I would like to write a bit about St. John the Baptist. St. John is a central person of our Advent. I am certain that you know St. John the Baptist’s story. Today I would like to share with you why I truly love St. John the Baptist. I wish I loved Jesus with the fervor of St. John the Baptist; I wish that I could preach as well as St. John the Baptist; I wish that I was as bold a missionary as St. John the Baptist.

The Gospels teach that St. John the Baptist discovered his vocation in a desert retreat, his sacred place. Personally, I have had many sacred places, places where I could pray in a special way. Right now, I think of that log chapel at Madonna House. In addition, I remember several parish churches and other such places near various assignments. They were good places for prayer and meditation. Like St. John the Baptist, these sacred places were where I made many important decisions. I thank God for putting such sacred places in my life.

I know that St. John the Baptist was a powerful preacher. He led many people to conversion and a new life. I believe it was that they realized how much John loved Jesus. His love for Jesus was evident to all who listened to him. John the Baptist taught me that I would be a better preacher when I developed a real love for the Lord Jesus. Prayer is very important for me to become a good preacher. I must take the time to walk in peace with the Lord Jesus.

I have visited the shore of the River Jordan, where they believed St. John preached and baptized. I discovered that it is a sacred place. St. John had a clever idea when he baptized as a sign of repentance and conversion. When a person came to listen to him and were converted by his messages. St. John wanted them to never forget their change of heart at that time. So, he walked each person into the river and baptized them. I have never forgotten my visit to that place on the shore of the River Jordan. For me, that visit was a transformation – a powerful moment I will not forget.

So, I continue to have a real devotion to St. John the Baptist. Each year at Advent time I continue to place St. John the Baptist in a special place in my prayer and in my memory. I speak often about him and his challenge for each of us to prepare myself and others for the coming of Christ’s birthday on Christmas. I think often of St. John’s line, speaking of Jesus, “He must increase, I must decrease.”

During Advent, our Church is counter cultural. While there are so many Christmas things to do at home – the decorating, the shopping, the sending of cards (all such good and enjoyable Christmas things to do – I love them all), Our churches becomes a bit barren – deserts –  with no decorations, no flowers, purple vestments. The Church becomes that special place for prayer and spiritual preparation of the Birth of Jesus, for Christmas.

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