June 24, 2016 – Friday in the 12th Week of the Church Year
Today’s celebration: Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist
Isaiah 49:1-6 – Psalm 139 – Acts 13:22-26 – Luke 1:57-66, 80
“I praise you, for I am wonderfully made.” (Today’s responsorial verse)
There are so many thoughts and images swirling through my head as I begin this reflection that I don’t know where to start. Since I began today’s reflection with the responsorial psalm verse, it might be good to read through the entire psalm. But read – or better yet, pray it and let the words and thoughts sink in. So take a moment to go back and read it as if it were addressed to you alone. “I praise you for I am wonderfully made.” Then, we remember what John, himself, said when asked if he was the Messiah: “I am not he…not fit to untie his sandals. I must decrease and He must increase.”
It is worthy to note how this feast got celebrated on this day. After all nobody knows the exact date of John’s birth – or the birth of Jesus. What the Church has done, however, is place these two important birthdays on June 24th and December 25th. This setting works well in the Northern Hemisphere because Jesus’ birth is set on the date of the Winter Equinox, December 25th just as the days are beginning to get longer. St. Thomas Aquinas says, “grace builds on nature” and so it’s natural for Jesus’ birth to be on that day when the light is coming back after a long night of winter.
So, if we go to the opposite side of the calendar we can see that today’s feast is set on the summer equinox so that what John, himself says, “I must decrease so that He may increase” is happening in a real way as people realize the days are already beginning to get shorter.
I just love the way the Church has arranged things like this and it’s worthwhile for us to use whatever means we have at our natural level to better understand what divine life is all about. Today’s Gospel tells us that John the Baptist leapt in his mother’s womb when he came near the presence of Jesus in Mary’s womb.
Again, the words of today’s responsorial psalm say so much that is worthy of our meditation. Do we know that we are so wonderfully made? Do our hearts skip a beat when we are aware of Jesus’ presence in our lives? Something to think about: do we make room (d0 we decrease) so that there is room for Jesus to increase? Think about that! Amen!