At morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta today, Pope Francis recalled that today is the feast of the Natiivity of St. John the Baptist. He said this cousin and precursor of Jesus should be a model for Christians to imitate.
In his homily, the Pope described John’s vocation in three verbs: to prepare, to discern, and to diminish.
Taking up the title of the martyr John the Baptist, “the greatest of the prophets,” the Pope urged those present to learn from his example.
Without taking any of the glory himself, John the Baptist, first and foremost, prepared the way for the Lord, the Pope said. For this reason, he added, people sought him out and followed him.
The Pontiff pointed out that when the “powerful preacher” was asked if he was the Messiah, he said in response that he was no more than a “voice” which had come “to prepare the way of the Lord.”
Pope Francis said that the second vocation of John the Baptist was to discern. He had to recognize the true Messiah from among the many “good people,” and this he did.
When John saw Jesus passing by, he said to the disciples, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” The disciples had overlooked Jesus. The next day, John repeated to them:“Look, this is God’s chosen one!”
The third vocation of John the Baptist, Pope Francis said, is the most difficult and was his vocation to diminish himself so that the Lord may grow in the hearts of others.
It’s the most challenging of the three, Francis acknowledged, because Jesus behaved differently than John expected. Before dying in prison, John was filled with doubt and sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he really is the chosen one.
Francis noted that John was humiliated in two ways: his death and in “the darkness of his doubts.”
In spite of this, Francis continued, he remains a model for Christians today. He concluded telling those present that “we too must prepare the way of the Lord.” Christians must live out these vocations: We must “discern the truth” and we must “diminish ourselves” so we can properly love the Lord. (D.C.L.)