Reflections

BIRTH OF JOHN THE BAPTIST, WEDNESDAY, JUNE 24, 2020

A VOICE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS
Greeting (See the First Reading of the Vigil)
Do not be afraid to speak, says the Lord,
for I am with you to protect you.
I am putting my words into your mouth.
Say whatever I command you.
May the Lord speak through us
and be always be with you. R/ And also with you.

Introduction
As artists have pictured John the Baptist, there are two symbols that typify him very much. One is a mouth that shouts. It is the voice crying in the wilderness, calling people to conversion. It is a voice that could not be silenced, scolding the religious leaders, as well as the common folk, and urging people to change their ways. Without fear he even faces King Herod and tells him to stop his adultery. He paid dearly for it, for it will cost him his head. Then, he is the finger pointing to the coming Messiah, and here too he paid dearly, for his own disciples deserted him to follow Jesus. Still he went ahead: the one he announced must become greater, he John, only smaller. Yes, he was a great man. “The greatest prophet,” says Jesus.

Penitential Act
Christ still needs to be announced today.
Do we make him visible in our lives?
Are our ways leading to Christ?
Let us examine ourselves.

(pause)

Lord, the world today – and that includes us –
is still in need of conversion.
But we lack the courage to change for the better:
Lord, have mercy. R/ Lord, have mercy.
Jesus Christ, we need to reflect
on our Christian vocation,
but we are afraid of the silence needed
to listen to your challenging Word:
Christ, have mercy. R/ Christ, have mercy.
Lord, we need prophets to speak in your name,
but we silence or ridicule them
when they point out our own inconsistencies:
Lord, have mercy. R/ Lord, have mercy.
Have mercy on us, Lord, convert us,
let us be people who prepare the way for you,
and when we have borne our witness,
help us to fade away to make room for you.
Lead us to everlasting life. R/ Amen.

Opening Prayer
Let us pray to God
that we may prepare the way of the Lord
(pause)
Merciful God,
we celebrate today with joy
the birth of John the Baptist,
your prophet who announced a new era
and prepared the way for your Son.
Help us to proclaim the message of Jesus
in the new language our time demands.
Give us the courage to leave our old ways
and to open resolutely to today’s people
the new road to the future which you offer us
in Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord,
who lives with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. R/ Amen.

First Reading: Servant of the Lord
Like the Servant of God in this song from Isaiah, John the Baptist is loved and called by God even before he is born. His task as a servant will be to lead people to God.

First Reading: Isaiah 49:1-6
Hear me, O coastlands, listen, O distant peoples. The LORD called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name. He made of me a sharp-edged sword and concealed me in the shadow of his arm. He made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me. You are my servant, he said to me, Israel, through whom I show my glory. Though I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, yet my reward is with the LORD, my recompense is with my God. For now the LORD has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb, that Jacob may be brought back to him and Israel gathered to him; and I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD, and my God is now my strength! It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 139:1b-3, 13-14ab, 14c-15
R (14) I praise you, for I am wonderfully made.

O LORD, you have probed me, you know me:
you know when I sit and when I stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.
My journeys and my rest you scrutinize,
with all my ways you are familiar. R

Truly you have formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother’s womb.
I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made;
wonderful are your works. R

My soul also you knew full well;
nor was my frame unknown to you
When I was made in secret,
when I was fashioned in the depths of the earth. R

Second Reading: The Humble Forerunner
John’s task was to prepare people’s hearts for the coming Saviour and then humbly to fade away.

Second Reading: Acts 13:22-26
In those days, Paul said: “God raised up David as king; of him God testified, I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will carry out my every wish. From this man’s descendants God, according to his promise, has brought to Israel a saviour, Jesus. John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel; and as John was completing his course, he would say, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.’ “My brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those others among you who are God-fearing, to us this word of salvation has been sent.”

Gospel: What Will This Child Be?
His birth from old parents and the wonders before and after his birth all speak of John as a man chosen by God for a very special mission.

Gospel: Luke 1: 57-66, 80
When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son. Her neighbours and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her. When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.” But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.” So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbours, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All 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. The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.

Commentary
John the Baptist is like a first draft for Jesus. They were alike in some ways: they were cousins, almost the same age; both came from the desert, urging people to a different way of life; both announced that events were coming to a head. Jesus had called John—Yahweh has been gracious—the greatest man that ever lived (Lk 7:28), and had queued up with the crowds to be baptized by him. Yet they were different.
Despite all his fire, John’s message in the end was rather conventional. “Tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.’ Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.’” (Lk 3:12-14).
He was, you might say, a moralist. Though there are still disciples of John the Baptist in Israel, the impact of Jesus on history has been infinitely greater.
Jesus is more than a moralist. If he were only a moralist, he would be a very poor one, for his claims exceeded those of any moralist. He claimed that he and the Father were one. Any mere moralist making such a claim would not be credible for a moment. We sometimes reduce him to a moralist. But he alone was able to say, “The Kingdom (the Presence) of God is among you.” This is much more powerful than all the moralism in the world. An ounce of “is” is better than a ton of “ought”.

Intercessions
Let us pray to God our Father, who has placed guides on our road leading us home, and let us say:
R/ Lord, lead us to you.

– For the Church of Jesus Christ, that the Spirit of Christ may inspire our leaders with prophetic zeal to lead our people to true Christian freedom, let us pray:
R/ Lord, lead us to you.
– For those whose task is to guide, such as missionaries, priests, sisters, educators in the faith and leaders of nations, that in these often discouraging times they may continue hoping in God’s strength, let us pray:
R/ Lord, lead us to you.
– For those who do not yet know Christ, that there may be teachers and prophets who level for them the way to the Lord, let us pray:
R/ Lord, lead us to you.
– For the world of today, that it may not turn a deaf ear to the voices of the prophets who plead for peace and justice for all, let us pray:
R/ Lord, lead us to you.
– For all of us here, that Christ may not be among us as someone we do not know, but that he may become recognizable in the humility of our weakness and poverty, let us pray:
R/ Lord, lead us to you.

God, you know us as we are. You have formed and called us even before we were born. May we serve you in all humility and prepare the way for the deeper coming of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. R/ Amen.

Prayer over the Gifts
Our God and Father,
you gave to John the Baptist the eyes of faith
needed to recognize and point out Jesus
as the long-promised Saviour.
Help us to recognize your Son
in these humble signs of bread and wine.
May Jesus become greater in us
and we smaller,
that he may become visible in us
and that in this way we may build roads
that lead to you, our living God.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. R/ Amen.

Introduction to the Eucharistic Prayer
On John the Baptist’s feast we remember how he pointed out to people the way to Jesus the Lord. Now we rejoice that Jesus our Lord is here with us, his people.

Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer
We too have been chosen by the Father
even before we were born.
We pray to him the prayer of his children,
as given us by Jesus, his beloved Son: R/ Our Father …

Deliver Us
Deliver us, Lord, from every evil
and liberate us from our pride that keeps us
from showing the true face of your Son.
Make your Church attentive
to the voice of your Spirit
speaking through prophets in our day;
make us attentive to the signs of the times
and to the needs and aspirations of people.
Help us to prepare with joy and hope
for the full coming among us
of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. R/ For the kingdom ….

Invitation to Communion
This is Jesus, the Savior,
announced by John the Baptist
as the Lamb of God
who takes away the sin of the world.
Happy are we to be invited
to the table of the Lord. R/ Lord, I am not worthy ….

Prayer after Communion
Lord our God,
your Son has been with us again
and yet he is not fully recognizable
in our words and in our very being.
Change our hearts,
place on our lips words of faith and courage
and let our deeds speak without fear
the language of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
your Son and our Lord for ever. R/ Amen.

Blessing
Even before we were born
every one of us has been called by God
to be saved by Christ.
Every one of us is called today
to prepare the way of the Lord
for the people we meet.
Every one of us is called today
to point out the presence of Jesus the Lord,
by the way we live his gospel.
May God bless you for this task:
the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. R/ Amen.
Go in peace and bear witness
to the Good News of the Lord. R/ Thanks be to God.

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