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The Freedom and Faith of John the Baptist

January 14, 2018 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

January 14, 2018
John 1:35-42
Fr. George Smiga

We have every reason to suppose that John the Baptist saw his ministry as a mission from God, that God was calling him to announce the coming of the kingdom. And if we can trust the gospels and other ancient sources, John’s mission was a huge success. Thousands of people went out into the Judean desert to be baptized by John, and John was able to form a group of disciples who supported him and assisted him in his work. John took his mission seriously. This is what makes John’s action in today’s gospel so remarkable. When John sees Jesus passing by, he says to his disciples, “Behold the Lamb of God,” and his disciples leave him and follow Jesus. At the height of his influence and success, John did not try to hold on to his disciples but instead sent them to the Lord.

Now, John was able to do this because he was a man of faith. He believed that God had a plan, and his role was only part of that plan. So when he saw Jesus, he realized that his work was done. He had come to prepare the way of the Lord, and the Lord had now arrived. John had the freedom to let go of his mission and his disciples because he believed that the same God who had called him to preach would continue to be faithful to him. Even though John’s work was finished, John believed that God was not finished with him. Trusting that God would not forget him, he was able to proclaim, “Behold the Lamb of God,” and step aside.

You and I need to follow the freedom and the faith of John the Baptist, as various callings in our lives come to an end. Parents need to do this. For years they give themselves to their children, providing, guiding, and protecting them. Then comes college, a job out of town, and someone they wish to marry. If we, like John the Baptist, believe that God has a plan for our children and we are only part of that plan, then we can find the freedom to let go of our children, even as we trust that God will not let go of us.

We have maybe worked for years building a career, serving other people through a job of which we are proud. Perhaps we have been attending a school where we are comfortable and have made a lot of friends. Then time comes for retirement or graduation, and we have to leave what we know and the people we know behind. If we, like John the Baptist, can be proud of the work that was done and now ended, we can also trust that God will lead our lives in a new direction and that direction will have blessings of its own.

Perhaps we’ve been fortunate to have good health our whole lives, having energy and strength to play hard and to work hard and to help others when they are in need. But, as we grow older, we begin to realize we have less energy and less strength and that we will have to depend more on others. The witness of John the Baptist tells us that we should not lament the good things that have ended but trust that, even in our fragility and dependency, God can still bless us.

If we try to hold onto things that are finished, we will become angry and unhappy people. That is why we need the example of John the Baptist, the example of his freedom and his faith: the freedom to say, “This part of my work is now done,” and the faith to believe that God will never be done with us.

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