As I was growing up in Puerto Rico, the celebration of John the
Baptist took many different forms… but always brought us
closer to water!! In an island that is difficult to avoid!! I
remember going to celebrate the Eucharist right on the beach…
that was the religious part! I also remember going to the river
and even opening the fire hydrants on the streets… we just
wanted to get wet as we remembered the Baptist.
As I look back to some of those customs I see them in a different
light. I see them as a reminder of our Baptism and the joy that
our Baptism brings into our lives as Christians. I also see them
as a call to a deeper commitment, a commitment that John the Baptist
also teaches us still today as we celebrate this solemnity.
Luke’s gospel narrates the birth of the Baptist. From birth
he brought joy to his parents but also puzzlement, questions and
fears… “What, then, will this child be?” the
neighbors asked… But we know who John was, we know he became
a prophet; a fearless prophet who preached conversion and repentance
in the midst of a difficult society. The celebration of his birth
invites us to see and understand the reality of our prophetic
vocation…a call to be prophets and to be people who not
only preach but live conversion, repentance and reconciliation.
This mission calls us to preach and live the power of transformation
and the power and tenderness of God in our lives and in a society
not too different from John’s society.
All of us have been called and anointed from the very moment
of our Baptism to be prophets who bring light into this world:
the light of Christ; and we are also anointed to be prophets who
bring a different flavor to a world that is hungry and thirsty
for God. This call comes even before Baptism… In the reading
from the prophet Isaiah we hear “The Lord called me from
birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name…”
St. Augustine would also say “Lord, you have made us for
yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
It is that restless heart that moved Isaiah and John. It is that
restless heart that moves us to proclaim the greatness of the
Lord. It is that restless heart that gives us the courage and
the wisdom to be prophetic in a world that is everything…
broken and whole, sinful and filled with the grace of God, a world
where darkness and injustice are so present but a world where
people of faith bring light and hope.
As I look back to the customs and traditions I followed as a
kid, I remember the joy of celebrating with water… today
I celebrate with that same joy and I recognize that we are all
called to celebrate our Baptismal call to be messengers of hope
and conversion. Today we gather as Church to celebrate and to
remember that just as God called Isaiah, John the Baptist, the
great prophets and Israel herself, God has called us through our
birth in Baptism to proclaim with all of our lives the God who
creates us anew.