For Saturday of the Seventeenth Ordinary Week of the Church Year
St. John the Baptist announced the coming of Christ and openly preached a message of personal reformation through repentance from sin.
In the Gospel today, we have the privilege of being present to witness the fulfillment of the mission of the great disciple John the Baptist— not the END of his mission and of his life, but the FULFILLMENT.
At first glance, it would appear that John’s prophetic mission ended in gruesome failure.
On the contrary, our faith and tradition regard the Baptist’s death as his supreme act of testimony to the truth and his supreme act of discipleship as the prophet who announced the presence of the Lord.
In his own day, John’s prophetic holiness was considered so great that when the reputation of Jesus as a prophet and miracle-worker began to spread people thought John must have risen from the dead.
John preached repentance.
Jesus then came and preached the same.
Jesus sent his own disciples also to preach repentance.
John’s voice opened the ears, hearts and minds of the people, and gave them a hunger to hear the voice of the Lamb of God.
Great numbers of people began to flock to Jesus like sheep to their shepherd.
John prepared the way for the Lord.
He did this first of all by preaching repentance and testifying on behalf of the truth.
Although the immediate contemporaries of John did not recognize it, Jesus was the living and incarnate Truth itself that John’s preaching proclaimed.
Our Christian faith recognizes this, and recognizes also that John’s death for the sake of preaching the truth was ultimately death for the sake of Christ the Way, the Life and the TRUTH.
John’s death for the sake of Truth was therefore also a privileged foreshadowing of the death of Christ the Lord, the Living Truth.
However, the assertion that Christ is the Truth may prompt us to ask: “About WHAT is he the truth?”
We already know the answer to this question; but it is an answer whose meaning we can never exhaust.
Christ’s words and deeds, his teaching, way of life and his existence tell us the truth about GOD and the truth about HUMANITY.
Both the true nature of God and true nature of humanity are revealed, reconciled and united in the one person of Christ.
To look upon Christ is the vocation that each of us received when we were called into being.
To exist AT ALL is already to have answered and obeyed the voice of the Creator that commanded us into being.
Christ, the WORD of God, IS that voice of the Creator.
To look upon the face of Christ and to listen to his voice is the vocation of EVERY human being.
John the Baptist exhorted his hearers to look upon Jesus.
John’s exhortation still echoes in every offering of the Eucharist.
Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.