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The Birth of John the Baptist
How propitious that you are entering seminary on the Solemnity of the Birth of St John the Baptist! I detect the hand of Providence in the unanticipated delay. Why? Simple reason. You know how hard it is to be a faithful priest and religious in today’s world, so aggressively anti-Christian. Therefore, you will need something to keep you on track, not only during your years of formation and preparation, but also after you are ordained and serving the Church full time with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength. In today’s feast, you can find that something, a motto, a theme, if you will, for your life of loving service to the glory of God and the salvation of souls. I refer to the haunting summary of the life of St John the Baptist, which he himself gives us in the Gospel of John.
Maybe you remember the scene. John’s disciples (of whom there were many) come to him complaining about the growing number of followers of Jesus; it appears that they are a bit envious. John patiently explains to them that that is exactly what is supposed to happen. He was only the precursor, the messenger sent to get people ready to welcome Christ the Lord, to introduce everyone to the Messiah, so that the Messiah could then enter into their hearts and transform their lives. So he sums up his mission with the following phrase: “He [Jesus] must increase; I must decrease.” Does that not summarize the life-mission of every baptized Christian, and even more so the life of a priest? If you keep that phrase in your heart, meditate on it, mull it around over and over again, and try to live its inspired truth, I guarantee you will discover the “pearl of great price” that will fill your privileged vocation with radiant joy and fathomless meaning.
You can be sure that I will be praying for you in a special way as you start up the narrow path to the priesthood, and I will ask St John the Baptist to take you under his spiritual care, since you are making that start on his day.
Your devoted Uncle Eddy