Nativity of John the Baptist, year B

Sunday, June 24, 2018
Fr. Jon
Homily transcription: 

Nativity of John the Baptist

June 23-24, 2018
St. Thomas Aquinas, Ames
Fr. Jon Seda
For three days this past week. Fr. Aaron and I joined the priests of our archdiocese at our annual priest continuing education days.  The speaker was Dr. Paul Ruff, a psychologist who with St. Paul Seminary in Minnesota, and he was really good.  Paul shared about a time recently when he had a very difficult year, and felt like his life was sinking.  He decided to go on a retreat, with the sense that even with all of his knowledge of counselling, the answer had to come from the Lord.  One night, he was alone and looked at the stars in the dark sky, and God spoke to him.  God spoke to him and said, "Paul, wait until you see what I will do next."  This changed everything for him.  It was a message of hope, it changed the way he thought and felt, he was able to look to the future instead of dwell on the past, and in a way that can only be described as grace, all of the sudden he felt unburdened and free.
Today's feast of the nativity of John the Baptist bumps the regular Sunday.  When we think of John the Baptist, we may picture him wagging his finger at us, saying "repent or else."  And this is true, it was part of his mission.  But like Isaiah in the first reading, and all the prophets, they are sent by God to us not only to critique, but to give hope.  God chose and prepared John from his birth for a special role in his plan of salvation.  At the core of his role is hope.  God says to us through John, "Wait until we see what I will do next."
This Gospel omits a key section for some reason, perhaps because there seems to be some law that Mass must be 59 minutes or less. Toward the end, it skips over the best part, the canticle of Zechariah, John's father.  Zechariah speaks of the role the John would play in God's plan.  This canticle is part of every morning prayer in the Church's Liturgy of the Hours.
In the morning, the line that always speak to me the most is when Zechariah says of John:  "You my child shall be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way."
That speaks to me.  It is a daily reminder that the Lord does not expect me to be the Savior of the world, and he does not expect that of you too.  He does ask of my and of you to prepare the way of the Lord.  We can't give anyone the gift of faith, we can't heal the hurts of others, and we can't free anyone from an addiction.  What we can do, and what we need to do, is to be like John the Baptist, to prepare the way of the Lord knowing that he is the one who does the heavy lifting. 
I once heard an important distinction between doing God's work and doing God's job.  Perhaps I am not alone in getting those two confused.  But when we figure out the difference between those two, it takes a lot of pressure off of us.  God's work is to prepare the way of the Lord.  It is to be like John the Baptist and point to Jesus.  God's job is to give the gift of faith, to heal the hurts of others, and to free us from whatever weighs us down.  We cannot do any of that.  But God can, and he does.
John the Baptist came not just to call us to repentance, but to prepare the way of the Lord and give us hope.  Like Paul experience on that dark night on retreat, God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.  That night, God said to Paul, and 2000 years ago God said to John the Baptist, and today God says to us, "Wait until you see what I will do next."