by Father Mark Goldasich
So, is your Christmas shopping list ready? After all, Christmas is only six months away!
Excuse me for bringing up Christmas when we’ve just officially entered summer, but I can’t help myself. It happens every year when the church marks the birth of St. John the Baptist on June 24.
This year, since it falls on a Sunday, many more people will be able to celebrate it.
It’s interesting that only two other births are commemorated in the church year: Jesus on Dec. 25 and the Blessed Virgin Mary on Sept. 8. That gives you some idea of how significant John the Baptist is. He’s the forerunner of Jesus, the one who “will go before the Lord to prepare his ways” (Lk 1:76).
This feast dates back to the fourth century. In the West, it was celebrated on June 24, based on Lk 1:36, which says that Elizabeth (John’s mother) was six months pregnant at the Annunciation (March 25). (Don’t you love how everything is so nicely timed in the church year: Jesus born exactly nine months after the Annunciation; John almost exactly three months after the Visitation.)
One of John’s primary roles was to point the way to Jesus. When I reflect on that, the following story pops into mind:
As an old man was lying on his deathbed, his pastor noticed that something was troubling him. Eventually, he broke the silence.
“When I was a youngster, Father,” he said, “I played a prank that haunts me to this day. Once, I twisted the highway route signs in opposite directions so the arrows would direct travelers in the wrong direction.
“I wonder as I lie here now, how many people I misdirected by that action. And I wonder how many I misdirected by the actions of my life.” (Found in “Sower’s Seeds That Nurture Family Values,” by Brian Cavanaugh, TOR.)
Clearly, John the Baptist pointed people in the right direction by his life. In our lives today, our faith asks us to do the same. As we approach the midpoint of 2018, it’s not a bad time to take stock of what kind of an example we’re setting for others.
Some ways to set a positive example might be:
- Actively practice your faith — not only at weekend Mass, but by spending some time each day in personal prayer and spiritual reading.
- Be kind to others and respect the uniqueness of each person.
- Never take people for granted. Be generous in expressing thanks for even the smallest kindnesses.
- Listen — not only to people’s words, but to their emotions and body language.
- ‘Fess up to your mistakes. Be humble enough to admit you don’t know it all.
- Eagerly reach out to those in need — in any way you can with what you can.
- Be quick to laugh — especially at your own foibles.
- Light up the world with hope, forgiveness and serenity.
It’s especially fitting to focus on light since John’s feast day falls near the summer solstice (June 21). According to Mary Ellen Hynes in “Companion to the Calendar,” many places throughout the world do this literally.
For example, some folks in Europe stay up all night to honor the saint by burning St. John’s fires . . . and then celebrate all through the day.
In Poland, people light candles on wreaths, which are tossed into a river to float downstream. In Lithuania, a cheese — made round to look like the sun — is sweetened with honey as a reminder of one of the foods John ate in the desert.
You know, on second thought, don’t worry about making your Christmas list. There’s plenty of time for that. Instead, strive to be a living example of Christ.
Take to heart these words of the Protestant evangelist D.L. Moody: “A holy life will produce the deepest impression. Lighthouses blow no horns; they only shine.”