The name “John” (Yohannen in Hebrew) means “Yahweh is gracious” a very appropriate name for the one who was to herald the greatest act of graciousness and kindness God ever demonstrated in the history of humanity.
In John the Baptist, we see a wonderful example of God’s providence at work among us. John’s conception, birth, life in the desert and role as herald of the Messiah are all effects of God’s intervention on our behalf. John the Baptist was sent by God “to bear witness to the light,” to tell the Chosen People (and through them the world) that God’s eternal plan was being implemented; that the incarnation of His divine Son had taken place. Weak and sinful men and women were to become children of God by adoption. Pardon for sins would be earned by the bodily sufferings of the incarnate Son of God. His resurrection would conquer death, and we would rise again and enter into the everlasting life of the Holy Trinity.
Through all the long centuries, God had been preparing His people for this Good News. Especially through the prophets, He had given some fairly clear indications of His eternal plan of salvation. John the Baptist was the last of the line of prophets, and he was the greatest of them all. It was his mission to point out to his audience the Son of God in our midst, the “Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.”
John, however, was sent not only for those of his day and age, but for people of all time. Over the past 2,000 years, the Good News of the Incarnation, of our redemption and exaltation, has spread over much of the world. But just as in the groups who came from Jerusalem that day in the year 30AD, there have been, in every generation, those who will not hear John’s message of conversion and preparation. There are some who are so self-centered and proud that they think they have no need for God or His providence in their lives.
During this Advent season, we are invited to listen to the call of John the Baptist, and from our hearts repent of our sins. Let us prepare for Christmas, the anniversary of our Lord’s birth, by cleansing ourselves of all sinful attachments, by making a firm resolution to follow the Lamb throughout our lives. By doing so, we too shall “bear witness to the light.” The way we live our faith will light the way for others, so that they, too, may be able to hear the call of God. In that way, each one of us can be another John the Baptist, by giving testimony to God’s loving and fatherly interest in, and care for, all people. If we prepare well in these days of Advent, then like John we will be able to point the way, not to ourselves, but to Christ, the Messiah and the true Light, who came to enlighten us all with His saving truth and grace.
Fr. De Ladurantaye is director of the Office of Sacred Liturgy, secretary for diocesan religious education, a professor of theology at Notre Dame Graduate School and in residence at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington, Virginia.
(This article courtesy of the Arlington Catholic Herald.)