Some years ago, while describing St. John the Baptist’s role within salvation history, a priest opened a bible to where the Old and New Testaments intersect and stated:
Here is John’s mission!
After generations of prophets having pointed the way to the Messiah, the Baptist was given the unique role of pointing Jesus out to a world in desperate need:
Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. (Jn 1:29)
And after doing so, this great saint and cousin of Jesus did what each of us is called to do: decrease.
Within the Church’s liturgical year, there is no coincidence that the Solemnity of John the Baptist is placed at the half-way mark to the great Feast of Christmas. For in late June, we will have arrived at the longest day of the year. Six-months later, we experience the joy of Christmas on the shortest day of the year. But from that day forward, the days grow longer. Christ increases.
In a certain sense, with Jesus now upon the scene, John’s mission had been fulfilled. Years before, at the Visitation, he had an experience of Jesus while residing in his mother’s womb. But now, having come face to face with the Creator of the universe, John removes all focus from himself. Instead, he points to Jesus.
I have often reflected upon how the Baptist must have felt as he gazed into Jesus’ eyes. What must he have seen? Similarly, as we progress on our faith journey, what do we see? If we are younger, perhaps we see a mission that has yet to be explored. While looking deeply into Jesus’ eyes and into our own hearts, we ponder the ways He may be asking us to use those talents in order that we might build up His body. If we are older, we might assess whether we have been good stewards and nurturers of the talents that we have received.
So here we stand… With longer days and hot summer months upon us, the light of Christ has become more fully exposed. And with sand passing through the hourglass, we are asked to shift our life perspective to allow the Lamb of God precious space in order that He might fully penetrate us. With John’s signal, we turn our heads and hear God whisper: decrease.
And as we do, He fills us with blessings! Having received them, we are confidently on our way to fulfilling the unique mission given us on the day of our baptism. Regarding the time horizon? Only heaven knows whether our remaining earthly mission consists of days, months, or years.
But now enveloped within the mystery of God, perhaps our journey is best described by the great American poet, Robert Frost:
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.