As every student knows, school often seems to be one test or paper after another; our futures seem to hang in the balance of mastering this material. In college, I was no exception and I often found myself cramming in one more fact, insight, or question for my Theology classes at the breakfast table in the cafeteria. As I began to feel prepared for the day, my friend Phil would come into the café and I would want to crawl under the table or do anything to avoid what I knew would come next--a drilling of all things that made my faith seem silly and absurd. There have been many "Phils" in my life, in the classroom or around the dinner table with family, friends and acquaintances.
It would be very easy to avoid such confrontations; just don’t talk to anyone who doesn’t agree with you about religion or say your faith is reflected in the way you live and keep your mouth shut. However, today’s readings don’t let us get away with this. We cannot be a "light to the nations" without expressing our faith in words as well as actions. The psalmist has us singing, "I announced your justice to the vast assembly," and then we sing "Here, I am Lord, I come to do your will." We need to speak out about our faith.
In today’s Gospel, we are given the example of John the Baptist as one who speaks the word of God. John is the bridge between the past and future. He is firmly planted in the Jewish tradition—he prophesies in the place where the great prophet Elijah was said to have been taken up to heaven; he speaks the words of the great prophets about God’s call to repentance, conversion, and of God’s mercy; he listens to the voice of God in baptizing sinners with water. John sees in Jesus the future. He recognizes Jesus as the one blessed by the Holy Spirit, as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world and the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. His testimony led the way for the public ministry of Jesus.
In sharing what John had heard in his heart, he led others to follow Jesus. In listening to the voice of the Spirit within us, perhaps, we too can lead others to know and love Jesus.
Lord, sometimes it is hard to speak your words in our polarized and secular world; our words are often rejected and ridiculed. Help us to be non-judgmental with those who do not know you. Help us to listen with full hearts so that we can hear the longings of those who do not know God. Inspire us with the Holy Spirit to speak words of mercy, compassion and love that will help us to lead others to you, just as John the Baptist did. We place our trust in you and in the work of the Holy Spirit to be people of faith in our world. Amen. Adored and loved be Jesus.
Located in Arlington Heights, IL, Saint Viator High School is a private, co-ed, Catholic school for grades 9-12. Students benefit from a challenging academic program, fine and performing arts, competitive athletics, and a wide selection of extracurricular activities.