So I preached on Sunday. David was out of town (for a much deserved vacation) and invited me (told me) to lead the service. So I did. David has said to me that one of his biggest goals is to get me to put on an alb and not have an asthma attack. Well, I put on my alb (for the second time since I got it), had everything in a notebook, and led the service, and I didn’t have an asthma attack.
Wanna know a secret? I liked it. It felt right. I was nervous, of course, but I did it. I didn’t screw anything up, at least nothing too badly. I’m really going to do this, aren’t I? I’m going to be a deacon. Soon, in fact. February 2 is going to come in a hurry. As much as I wanted to go to India, I’m glad I’ll be here for this preparation, for this time to grow and learn and experience–and practice.
I recorded the service, but I haven’t listened to it yet. I don’t want to. I’m afraid it won’t be any good. People said I did well, but don’t they have to say that? I’m not the most comfortable person in front of a crowd. I’ll stop now. David wouldn’t have asked me to do it if he thought I couldn’t…right?
Anyway, here’s the prepared text of the sermon. I more or less stuck to it. It was the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.
Why do we celebrate John today?
A ‘miracle baby’ born long after Elizabeth and Zechariah should have been able to have children. Destined from before he was born to be a prophet. His name foretold, his childhood and early adulthood dedicated first to preparation, and then preaching about the one who was to come, right up until he lost his life for it.
Today we hear about John’s naming. Why does it matter? Well, the name itself is important, since it means God is gracious, and we know that the God of this New Testament, the Christian Testament, operates a little differently—not the vindictive, angry god, but a God of patience, mercy, graciousness.
Why do we celebrate John?
Zechariah hadn’t been able to speak since the angel he told him Elizabeth was going to have a baby and Zechariah kind of scoffed at him.
The people at the bris knew Zechariah couldn’t speak anymore, that he’d had some sort of experience while in the Temple about 9 months back, so when he wrote that the baby was to be named John and then was able to speak, everyone there knew there was something special about this kid.
Why do we celebrate John?
We’re told John recognized the Jesus as the Messiah before either of them were born. Elisabeth told Mary that John had leapt inside her when Mary visited. Maybe this is what gave John the strength to do what he was called to do in life.
As an adult, he traveled as a prophet, encouraging people to prepare themselves for the Messiah, who would be coming after him. He knew his role was one of intense honor—he was there to proclaim the truth and the coming of the Messiah, whose shoes he was not worthy to remove.
Why do we celebrate John?
Maybe we celebrate John today because we are a little envious. I mean, I’d sure like to have a clue what I’m meant to be doing! I changed my major four times in college and then took another eight years to get to grad school—for something still different.
We celebrate John today because he knew—before he was even born—what his role on this earth was to be. He was destined for it, but he still had to choose it.
We have the opportunity to choose our purpose, our destiny as well. We can choose it every day.
When do we feel the presence of the Messiah, the Christ? We may not have babies percolating inside us to tell us we have met Jesus, but we do meet him every day. We meet him in the homeless we pass on our way to work. We meet him in the office when we have to greet the coworker who has an unparalleled ability to make us want to staple our fingers together so we don’t throttle him. We meet him when we smile at a stranger or hold the door for someone or volunteer to tutor or coach a sport team. A million things, a hundred choices every day.
John slipped off to the desert to get ready for all of this. Most of us don’t have that opportunity (or desire). So what do we do to take care of ourselves and ensure we are ready to greet Jesus and to be Christ to others? We come to Mass. We advocate for justice. We smile at (some) strangers. We reflect on our lives. We pray. Maybe we fast or sacrifice during Lent. We give of our resources to good causes. Take a few moments some time this week to think about what you are doing, what you have done, what you could do to help yourself always be ready, always be available, always be willing.
We celebrate John’s birth because he was called from the time he started cookin’. We celebrate John because he didn’t really know what was going to happen, just that he was supposed to share this message. We celebrate John because just like John, very one of us is here on this earth, even here in this room, because there’s something great planned for us.
Are we going to foretell the imminent second coming? Probably not. Are we still meant for greatness? Absolutely.