January 19, 2014 / click on left end of black bar to play-pause
Fr. George Smiga
January 19, 2014
John the Baptist is the Patron Saint of Freedom. John had his own ministry, but he was not threatened by Jesus’ ministry. John did not feel he needed to compete with Jesus. He was secure enough in who he was that he could proclaim Jesus as the Lamb of God. This is what we see John doing in today’s gospel. We can feel his strength and his confidence even as he invites his own disciples to leave him and follow after the Lord. We need the kind of freedom that John displays, because all too often we measure ourselves against others. We somehow think that the gifts and successes of others diminish our own. So instead of having the freedom to affirm the good that we see in others, we allow our lives to be ruled by jealousy and competition. This rivalry can characterize our lives. It is so fundamental that it can be seen even in children.
As Mary brought her newborn child home from the hospital, her thoughts were centered on her son Michael who was three years old. For all of Michael’s life he was the only child in the family, and Mary knew that he was a sensitive child. She was worried about how jealous he would be with a new brother. Mary had read all the books that she could find on sibling rivalry. She even decided that she would hire a nurse named Annie to come in for a few weeks to help Michael and the rest of the family adjust.
Despite her concerns, however, Mary was surprised to see that Michael adored his brother from the start. He loved helping Annie feed the baby and bathe him. He even brought some of his toys and placed them in the baby’s crib to share. After weeks of this behavior Mary concluded that she had worried about nothing. Michael was not at all jealous of his brother. She let Annie know that with things going so well she could now manage without a nurse. So Annie said goodbye to everyone in the family, and Mary watched as Annie walked away from the house towards her car. Suddenly there was this cry of distress from Michael. “Annie,” he yelled running out of the house towards his former live-in nurse. “Annie,” he said. “You forgot your baby.”
Rivalry comes naturally to us. It diminishes our freedom. We are not able to be ourselves because we keep comparing ourselves to others. I am not a good mother because I am not the mother that she is. I am not a good businessman because I am not as successful as he is. I am not a likable person because I am not as popular as they are. I cannot find joy, because I am not like my brother, or my friend, or my teacher. All of this comparing, all of this competition binds us up. It enslaves us. That is why we need the freedom of John the Baptist. We need to stop comparing and speak the truth.
Where did John the Baptist find his freedom? John was free because he knew who he was and who God was. John understood that he had a relationship with God and that God loved him as a beloved child. John knew that other people had relationships with God and some of them, like Jesus, were even closer to God than he was. But this did not threaten John because John knew that his relationship with God was real and sufficient. This is what we need to know. We need to claim the truth that we are beloved daughters and sons of God. We need to know that our relationship with God will stand, regardless of whatever relationship other people have or do not have. When we are secure in our own relationship with God, we can overcome jealousy. Then we can find the freedom to be the people we are, the freedom to speak the truth, the freedom to give witness to the Lamb of God.