“He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord.” (Luke 1:17)
The prophet is called to always point out and proclaim the truth…even when it is unpopular. That is what John the Baptist did. That is why we celebrate his birth and his life on this day. John was set apart in his mother’s womb to the prophet of the Most High, to prepare the way for the Lord, and to preach repentance. He was such a great prophet that even Jesus himself said this about his cousin: “I say to you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John (Luke 7:28).” As the Scriptures tell us, preaching the truth came at a high price for John. He was not afraid to preach truth to power that is why he denounced King Herod for marrying his brother’s wife. Speaking such a bold truth to the maximum authority ultimately cost John his head. Yet he was not afraid of death as so many martyrs of the Church through our 2000 year history. John was faithful to God and was faithful to the truth that he was called upon to preach from his mother’s womb.
All of us are called to be prophets because we are members of a Church that is called to prophetic. We are called to speak out for those who have no voice: the poor, the marginalized, the unborn, the immigrant, and the outcast. We are called to speak the truth and denounce injustice. Just last week, our pastor got up at the end of Mass to explain the “Fortnight for Freedom” that the U.S. bishops have started. This is a two week period that started last Thursday and runs up to Independence Day where we have been asked by our shepherds to spend time in prayer, fasting and in catechesis as we seek to become better informed about the current attack on our religious liberties and to pray that these liberties be protected. There were people that did not like what our pastor was saying. There were people that walked out of Mass with scowls on their faces as if the pastor had just preached some unspeakable heresy. One parishioner even went so far as to argue with our pastor for five minutes after Mass about how wrong he was even though he was basically preaching Church teaching. So now our own people don’t want their priests to preach the truth from the pulpit? I guess we prefer a “feel good” Sunday experience where we aren’t challenged to do what we were baptized to do. Well, the priests of this parish are committed to preach the truth, committed to denounce this current attack on our religious liberties, committed to protect the unborn, committed to protect the plight of the poor and the immigrant, committed to protect the conscience of each and every one of you that have been entrusted to our care. As priests, we cannot and will not remain silent. And neither should you. Because you were baptized into the prophetic office of Christ, you are also called to proclaim the truth in the public square. How else are people going to know that the first freedom, the freedom of religion, is currently under attack by our own government?
I preached on this back in January, but as Catholics, we need to develop a backbone and start calling out the things that are wrong with society just as John the Baptist did. Yes, Jesus accepted everyone, but he did not accept their sin because when sinners turned to Jesus, they left their sins in the past. We must be courageous enough to tell people that we stand with our Bishops in their fight to protect our religious freedoms because if we don’t then our Catholic schools, our Catholic hospitals, and our Catholic soup kitchens and social services may be in serious danger. If we don’t speak the truth in the public square, how are we going to turn the tide on a culture that day by day keeps turning its back on God and keeps doing “what feels good”. Sometimes speaking truth truly is unpopular but it must be done. Who else is going to tell the world that while we love and are compassionate towards homosexuals, marriage is defined as the union between one man and one woman? Who is going to tell young couples that it is not ok to live together before marriage? Who is going to tell couples that have been married that it is not ok to marry someone who has been divorced and then come and receive communion? These are the truths that we don’t like to talk about or point out because we do not want to offend. Let me echo what I said back in January: if the truth offends so be it. The truth of Jesus Christ is the same today as it was 2000 years ago when he preached to the multitudes. We must be a bold and courageous Church modeled after the great prophet John the Baptist. We must point out and proclaim the truth at all times even when it is unpopular precisely because we belong to a prophetic church that is called to stand up for the truth and bring Christ into the lives of our brothers and sisters. WARNING: Speaking the truth may cost you friends and it may cost you many restless nights, but that it is far better than being silent and having that cost you your eternal soul.
St. John the Baptist, pray for us.