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Welcome to the Pastor's Desk

Most of the times when we celebrate the feast of a saint, we are celebrating it on the day of their death. It is because that day marked their entry to heaven. But there are two other saints whose birthdays we celebrate; the Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary on September 8 and St. John the Baptist on June 24.

Every life has a purpose. Birth is always an occasion to be joyful; the welcoming of a new life, born in love into the world. This Sunday, we celebrate the birth of John the Baptist. He was the cousin of Jesus Christ and the son of Zechariah and St. Elizabeth. St. John as a prophet, preached a message of repentance to the people of Jerusalem. He converted many and prepared the way for the coming of Jesus. He baptized Jesus Christ after which he stepped away and told his disciples to follow Him. He was imprisoned by King Herod.

But what is in a name? In the biblical world, a name represents, identifies and describes a person. A name aims to convey what the bearer of the name stands for. Like for example when Simon shows that he could be relied on as a leader of the apostles, he gets the name Peter or “Rock.” When the sons of Zebedee, James and John, petition Jesus to call down lightning from heaven to burn up the inhabitants of a Samaritan village who do not welcome Jesus, they get a new name “Sons of Thunder.” Names reveal an essential character or destiny of the bearer. What does the name John mean? It means, “Yahweh has shown favor,” or “God is gracious, merciful.” He is named, John because his birth signals the beginning of a new era in God-human relationship, an era to be characterized by grace and not by law. God Himself gave John that name and it was revealed to his father Zechariah in a vision (Luke 1:13). St. John stands for his name. It is because he showed the world that God indeed has shown His favor to humankind by sending the Savior.

Two things we can consider in todays feastday: First, John the Baptist was a prophet. When we hear the term “prophet,” not a few think that he is someone who foretells the future. But the prophet is to build the future by telling people how to live in the present. The truth is that the prophet’s chief role is not to foretell but to proclaim the message of God at all times, to all people whether they like to hear it or not. The prophet is the conscience of the people. He afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted. That is why St. John the Baptist frankly and openly speaks words. He criticized the selfrighteous Pharisees and Sadducees: “Brood of vipers, who warned you to fly from the retribution that is coming!” To the abusive soldiers, he denounced, “Stop oppressing the people.”Then he dared tell Herodias, the mistress of Herod and his brother’s wife, that their relationship was immoral. John’s words disturbed Herodias’ conscience and the only way to silence him was to have him beheaded.

There will be times, too, when we Christians have to stick to non-negotiable moral principles and convictions. This reminds me of a story of grieving lady who approached his parish priest to request that a Requiem Mass be said for her imported dog, which had just died. “Mass for a dog?” retorted the priest. “Lady, that’s against the canon (church) law!” “You see, Father, I love that dear little dog very much. I set aside $500 for his funeral service. But if you don’t like, I’ll just go to the Protestant church,” replied the lady as she turned around to leave. On hearing the $500, the priest’s eyes sparkled and blurted out, “Lady, you can’t do that. Your dog is a Catholic. Come back, I’ll say the Mass for the poor little creature.” Obviously, that’s only a joke but don’t our Christian principles and convictions falter when some interesting considerations are offered?

Second,Our world has an urgent need for witnesses. John's martyrdom is a testimony that every disciple of Jesus must never be afraid to proclaim the truth. He is a great witness because he is the link between the Old and New Testaments. He is the last of the prophets who announces the coming of the Messiah. He is the first of the disciples who proclaims his coming.

To be a witness in this way is not an easy task. However, the Lord will bless our frail efforts into a great accomplishments for the fulfillment of his salvific plan. As we reflect on the birth of John the baptist, like that of Zechariah and Elizabeth, parents may worry what lies ahead of their children, but they have always great hopes as God does. Every parent share God’s hope for every child born into the world. We hope that they will find God’s love in their lives and the care of Jesus, as John the Baptist did. Like John’s parents, every parent too are happy to see their children grow older and take on a divine life, of becoming generous, compassionate and caring for others and committed to making a world better. Like John the Baptist, all of us are placed with hope to ‘prepare the way of the Lord’ by our lives –what we say and how we say it, what we do and how we do it. Bless all children. St John the Baptist ,pray for us.