The first point to be made must be the one of how important the Catholic Church considers the birth of John the Baptist. For her it so important that it “trumps” the regular Sunday readings for the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time. All three readings focus on the birth of John as an integral part of something as big as the whole history of salvation.
Actually, this is true of the call to life of every single one of us human beings; all according to a mysterious plan in which God assigns a specific, unrepeatable role to each of us.
Isaiah 49:1…The LORD called me from birth; from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.
The truth, which some might want to deny at any cost, is this: our Creator God has a plan that includes me and you, and you and everyone else. That plan is intended to be an unbroken chain from our ancestors, to our parents, to us and into the future until the end of time. Throughout its unfolding, God’s plan must be welcomed and accepted with docility and respectful wonder. Throughout its unfolding, the attitude that we have before any budding new life should be the one that took over the hearts and minds of those people who witnessed the birth of John.
Luke 1:65 Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea.66All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.
This is healthy fear that should always possess us whenever we are face to face with God’s action lest we dare to interfere and alter the course set by him. The true story I am about to share with you intends to confirm this and to keep us always filled with awe and fear before the works of the Lord of life.
A man was jokingly teased by his brother because he had fathered already two girls and the one on the way would have made for him daughter number three. For a while he pondered the suggestion given by his mother-in-law to abort the child. The more he thought about it the more he found the suggestion sensible. Sensible, until his mother learned about it. Her reaction was so clear, vehement and firm that he did not dare to contradict her. It can be summarized in these few words: “Over my dead body.” “Shame on you!” “How dare you defy God who gave you her as a most precious gift?”
Fast forward 15 years. In shallow water, the man was hauling his end of a dragnet towards the beach when, suddenly, he fell into a pit in the sand and began to drown. Guess who rescued him? It was his third daughter, the one who should have been aborted because she was not a son.
Yet the story does not end there.
His fourth child was the long-awaited son. He grew spoiled and pampered beyond belief, as if he were the realization of a dream and the fulfillment of all longings. However, he soon developed very serious mental problems and would routinely beat his father and cover his mother with bruises, insults and abuses of all kinds. His father died a few years ago of a broken heart because of the shame and the frustrations he had to endure for so long. The mother is still clinging to the last shreds of her tearful existence; but she doesn’t dare to complain to God because of the remorse that is still eating her inside.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, if remorse is eating us alive because, in the past, we have attempted to thwart God’s plan, we should never forget that such foolish attempts, at the end, prove completely void. God has countless ways of getting good results even from our mistakes, weaknesses and blinding arrogance. His heart aches until we seek his forgiveness and bloom again in his infinite mercy and endless outpouring of grace.
Then, let me add this: for all of us, both for those who dabbled in the culture of death and for those who have always been unreservedly for life, this feast of the birth of John the Baptist calls us to pause and bring into full focus the part of God’s plan that revolves around our life and the lives of those close to us.
Of course, we can only begin, here and now, to bring the purpose of our life into full focus. It is a task that commands our full attention, respect and docility. We can do this only in the silence and quiet of our inner room, after we have locked out all distractions and noises. What we shall discover will be humbling and challenging at the same time.
To create the right atmosphere we might want to dwell on Psalm 139, at least the three stanzas that make up today’s responsorial psalm.
We will discover why we were called to life at that particular time and place. We will see the reasons behind the pleasant and hurtful events in our life. The hand of the Lord guiding us and his intent enlightening us will become clearer and clearer. Then, it will dawn on us how our life is connected and intertwined with not only everyone in our family, but with so many other people. Slowly, our inner room will be filled with unmistakable evidence of the Father’s infinite wisdom, patience, care and compassion. At the same time, our mind will see the path ahead with clarity, meaning and purpose. And our heart will brim over with the warmth of having been surrounded by the, even if imperfect, love of family and friends as well as, always, by the pure and unfailing love of God, the universal Father of all life.
REVEREND DINO VANIN, PIME was born in Cendon di Silea, Province of Treviso, Italy in 1946. He entered the PIME Seminary at Treviso at the tender age of eleven. He came to the U.S. in 1968, studying Theology at Darlington Major Seminary in New Jersey. He has an MA in Secondary School Administration from Seton Hall University. Ordained in 1972, he served as an administrator, teacher, rector and principal at the PIME High School Seminary in Newark, Ohio before being sent to the missions of Thailand, where he served for six years. He is currently the Treasurer of the U.S. Region of PIME in Detroit. On December 16, 2018 he was installed as Pastor of San Francesco Catholic Church in Clinton Township, MI. Every week he takes some time off from his parish ministry to do some administrative work at PIME headquarters in Detroit. Due to his increased workload at the parish while continuing as Treasurer of the U. S. Region of PIME and as counselor and spiritual director, he spends any time left doing a little woodworking.