Unlike most years, this year we celebrate the liturgy for the Birth of John the Baptist on a Sunday. John holds a unique place in our salvation story; he was the chosen one who, in so many ways, prepared the way for Jesus' ministry.
While his conception and birth are both remarkable, I have always been most interested in the adult man who so completely gave himself to his mission. Marshall McLuhan's axiom, "The medium is the message" certainly applies to John.
Beginning from the Visitation, when John leapt in the womb in recognition of the presence of Jesus, he lived his life as both the herald of God's advent into the world and the one who readied the hearts of his listeners to receive the good news of our redemption.
'I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.
His message of repentance brings us the challenge: "How do we give ourselves fully to the truth of God's love; how do we co-operate with God's saving grace by a radical change of heart?"
As a counsellor, I am acutely aware of the fundamental difficulty in overcoming the consequences of our own sin and the wrongs done to us. Sometimes repentance is not enough to change our lives; an act of the will and sincere sorrow may not create sufficient freedom to surrender ourselves to love.
Yet we are never asked by God to do something that is impossible. So there is a way through the wilderness of suffering and difficulty in our lives.
The Psalm for this Sunday alludes to that way: "You knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made." The way is found in the nature of who we are.
One fundamental characteristic of the human person is the capacity for, healing. If we cut ourselves, or break a bone, all that is required is to provide the proper conditions to support healing and the tissue knits together, the bone mends stronger than before.
The same is true for our mental tears and breaks. Our mind does heal, our heart does mend, so long as we give ourselves the environment that fosters restoration. Time doesn't heal everything, but the healing capacity within the human person does move us to health over time; the key is to provide the healing environment.
It is also true for our spiritual ills. We are fundamentally designed so that the wounds that are the result of our own sin and the sin of others are healed as we live in a way that facilitates that natural process.
This way of living has long been expressed in the wisdom of the Church. It is a life of commitment to the four pillars of sacraments, prayer, service, community.
When we choose this way of life, and discipline ourselves to follow it even in our brokenness and weakness, we are preparing the way of the Lord, we are making straight a path in the wilderness for God to come and accomplish his purposes within us.
(Kathleen Giffin firstname.lastname@example.org)