Suffering for the Truth - Nativity of St. John the Baptist
Here is where John separated himself from the pack. Granted, his wild and woolly looks, diet and unique clothing style would make him stand out a bit. Yet it was message, delivery and personal passion set him apart.
Don't get me wrong - the majority of his message was definitely "Old School", namely repent. Turn from your evil ways.
Unlike the Old Testament prophets, his message was much more specific, personal, and according to Luke's account, practical. As in any age, corruption was rampant. John's message of 'enough is enough' addressed that corruption, hypocrisy, deceit, double standards - on both a public and private level. He then preached the freedom that repentance would bring would take them to a new level of rightness of life, forgiveness and fitness for the next step: for the arrival of the Messiah.
When Jesus so much as walked by, John instinctively knew the Lamb of God was Savior was near. When Jesus arrived at the Jordan for the ritual dunking baptism ... when he saw his Redeemer eye to eye ... John hesitated. Jesus needed to reassure John to go ahead with the baptism, encouraged him to go through this initiation rite. Jesus' human life was about to change once and forever; he needed to wash off the old and prepare for teaching, preaching, constant travel, infrequent total privacy.
Go ahead, John, baptise me.
But I can't .... how ...how can I?
You can because this is for me, it's not for you.
You know I'll do anything you ask.
Then pray with me, John. Pray. And baptise me.
John baptised Jesus, beheld His innate glory and found his new inner calling: "He must increase, I must decrease.".
I can take that lesson from John - reminding myself that whatever I may be called to do, the credit, the strength, the work - comes from God and must point to God.
It isn't about me.
Particularly in these days, embracing THAT reality is humbling; could be recognized as some small level of personal suffering. Always, always giving God the glory, always being transparent so that the Love of God shines us through without distortion. Most of us will not die FOR our faith or our witness to Christ ... but some will! Some will face the ultimate price on this side of life for justice, peace, truth. Some of us will actually physically, emotionally and mentally suffer. That, too, is truth and we must never forget it.
How can we - self-serving, self-centered, self-promoting - change incrementally but surely to a life that points to God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit as all-in-all? By striving to hear that invitation: "Pray with me. Pray. Then do what needs to be done."
Almighty God, by whose providence your servant John the Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of your Son our Savior by preaching repentance: Make us so to follow his teaching and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and, following his example, constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth's sake; through Jesus Christ your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.