God is Active in the World

Jun 24, 2017: Nativity of St. John the Baptist

Isaiah 49:1—6
Psalms 139:1—3, 13—15
Acts 13:22—26
Luke 1:57—66, 80

The birth of St John the Baptist reminds us that God is active in this world. Two thousand years after His covenant with Abraham, God sends St John the Baptist, the last and greatest prophet, to His chosen people. A thousand years after His solemn promise to King David, which the Second Reading reminded us of, God sends a forerunner to announce the arrival of the new, everlasting King. Seven centuries after Isaiah’s Messianic prophecy, God sends St John the Baptist to set the stage for the promised Messiah.

St John the Baptist received the baton of the gospel from those chosen by God to advance His plan of salvation up to the time of Christ, and he handed on that baton to Christ’s very first disciples, who took it, washed it in the saving blood of Christ our Redeemer, and then handed it on yet again, to the Church, which has kept passing it forward ever since.

The birth of St. John the Baptist is like a huge billboard that sums up the whole history of salvation and says, “God hasn’t forgotten about us, and He never will forget about us!”

This is the truly amazing thing about God — not just that He exists (that’s self-evident, which is why children have to be taught to be atheists), but that He is so interested in our lives and so active in the world; that He cares about sinners and wants to save them; that, as the First Reading puts it, He calls each of us from our birth, and while we are still in our mother’s womb; He gives us our name — that is, He knows us through and through and gives each one of us a unique mission in life.

Yes, God is active in the world, through His John the Baptists, through His messengers, through us.

God gives us evidence of this constant action through the beauties of creation, the love of friends and family, and the normal experiences of life — though the devil likes to make us forget about that. For example, think about the weight of a proton and the charge of an electron — the most basic realities behind the very possibility of life on earth. Why don’t the supposed laws of evolution change these realities? Why don’t they fluctuate? Who keeps them steady? God. God created the universe, and God’s loving, all-powerful hand keeps sustaining it.

This subtle, quiet action of God frustrates many people. Beautiful sunsets every day are not enough for them. Before trusting God, they demand to see extraordinary miracles.

God is patient with them too.

A few weeks ago, Pope Francis canonized two new saints.

Extraordinary miracles surrounded them during their lifetimes, and have been worked through their intercession since their deaths.

In fact, God has to work at least two miracles through the intercession of someone who is in the process of canonization before the Pope will declare them a saint. The Congregation for Saint’s Causes carefully investigates thousands of reported miracles. Many cannot be verified. Some could possibly be explained by natural causes. Only the ones that the very best scientific analysis can in no way explain are accepted.

Two of those must be on record for every canonization, with the sole exception of martyrs. St. John Paul II canonized more than 100 saints.

It is a pity that the miracles and exemplary lives of these saints do not make headline news.

Nevertheless, lackluster media coverage cannot change the fact that every canonized saint is, just like St. John the Baptist, a huge billboard saying: “God is still at work in the world!”

St John the Baptist’s whole life, from his birth to his martyr’s death, was a billboard for this all-important truth, that God is active in the world. St. John’s awareness of this truth spurred him on to show and remind people of God’s interest in their lives, through his example, words, and actions.He was faithful to his life’s mission, because he knew that God wanted to work through him to pave the way for Christ, to change people’s lives for the better.

Today the Church is renewing our awareness of the same truth. Therefore, today, we can renew our commitments to our life missions.

The first and most important place where we can carry out that mission is in our families.

What does it mean to be Christ’s messengers in our families, especially during the summer, when family time is more abundant than ever?

It means to be like Christ: to be a the kind of brother and sister that Christ would be if he were in our place, to be a Christ like father, mother, cousin, or grandparent. It means striving every day to be honest, patient, respectful, and forgiving, to care as much about the successes and problems of others as about our own — as Jesus said, there is more joy in giving than receiving.

However, none of us can be like Christ if we depend on our own strength. It’s too much for us. God gave St. John the Baptist his mission, and God’s grace enabled him to fulfill it. Today Jesus will come to us in Holy Communion, giving us that same grace that very same strength that has worked wonders throughout salvation’s history.

Let’s receive it joyfully, and let’s promise Jesus that we will put it to work, becoming living billboards that show God is still at work in the world.

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