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Finding your niche: Weekly Message for 06-23-2020
Dear Friends in Christ,
Tomorrow we’re going to celebrate the Solemnity of the Birth of St. John the Baptist, a saint who merits a solemnity (the highest category of feast days) because of his special niche and role in salvation history. The date of this solemnity reflects that special niche too: when the angel Gabriel told Mary her elderly cousin Elizabeth was three months pregnant (with John) it was a sign sent to Mary to help her know that nothing was impossible to God, not even a Virgin who would beget a child. Tomorrow’s solemnity is one day shy of exactly three months after the Annunciation (celebrated on March 25th) and six months before the Nativity (December 25th). John was conceived three months and a day before Our Lord and was born three months and a day before him.
John the Baptist was going to be the last prophet of the Messiah. He was a prophesied prophet, foretold in the writings of the last prophet included in the Old Testament, Malachi: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers…” (Malachi 4:5-6). We celebrate John’s birth because it meant that the coming of the Lord was at hand.
John’s father Zechariah was incredulous, despite a visitation by the angel Gabriel, that he and his wife would ever have a child after so many years trying and hoping. As a result, he became a silent spectator to the events as they unfolded, mute after his encounter with the angel and his lack of faith. On the day of his son’s birth, in which he seconded his wife’s decision to name their son John because the Lord wished it, he regained his voice and sang the praises of the Lord and the mission of his son.
John’s whole life and his mission was to be a sign and a herald of the coming of the Messiah in Our Lord, from the womb and beyond. That didn’t stop with him or his parents: his conception was a sign to Mary, to Elizabeth, to Zechariah, and to everyone who knew them, even if those people didn’t entirely understand what all the miraculous circumstances surrounding John’s conception by an elderly couple meant until John began his prophetic ministry. When he did begin his ministry he made a point of reminding his listeners that his mission was to prepare the way for the Lord, not to glorify himself.
Few privileged individuals, if any, have come to experience Our Lord spiritually and directly without an intermediary, especially when he wanted to invite them to follow him in a specific way. Even Mary and Zechariah received their invitations via angel. The grand majority of us have encountered Christ and the faith thanks to another believer. Every believer is called to be a sign and herald of Our Lord, that intermediary who helps others prepare and encounter the Lord. That requires the same openness and faith as Mary at the Annunciation, not the reticence and incredulity of Zechariah at the announcement of his son’s impending conception and birth. That process starts with prayer, the sacraments, and striving for holiness, all of which prepare us for identifying our niche when the Lord reveals it.
You are called to live the faith in a specific place, historical moment, and circle of family, friends, and acquaintances, just as John was. Your life of faith and holiness is a sign and a message, even without opening your mouth. That can be daunting, tempting you to react as Zechariah did at first, but as long as you continue trying to follow God’s will in your life you will help others to welcome Our Lord as well, just like John.
May the Lord help you grow in holiness and find your niche in his saving plans.