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Birth of St. John the Baptist
Like a real family, our Christian community celebrates birthdays.  We Filipinos love to go to Mass on our birthdays, even if we do not go to church the whole year.  A birthday is a time to give thanks, a time to pray, a time to reflect. It is a time to consider blessings. Today, our Sunday celebration is eclipsed and enriched by a feast day that commemorates a birthday, that of John the Baptist.  John, the cousin of the Lord, was also the one who prepared the way of the Lord by his preaching and his lifestyle.  Common knowledge to all, is that he baptized the Lord Jesus in the River Jordan.
The gospel narrates the miraculous birth of John, from parents too old to conceive and in fact, also sterile all their lives.  When the time has come to name the child, Zechariah, his father, inspired by the Spirit called him John, which means a “graced by God” or simply, a “blessing”.
Birthdays are moments to count our blessings.  Every person on earth is God’s grace to the human community.  That is why, every child has a right to be born, a right to live, a right to prove his worth in the world.  We say “yes” to life and no to “a culture of death” because we are convinced that God has a purpose for every human life. Celebrating our birthday is an excellent way to realize that others too, are entitled to a birthday.
What is the importance of the birth of John the Baptist to our Christian life today?  It is not only that John prepared the way of the Messiah by forceful voice and ascetic life.  It is not only because he announced that Someone greater than he is coming, someone “whose sandals he was not fit to untie”.
Beyond mere words, John’s task was to point to Jesus the Messiah and Lord. How many of depictions of John show him reaching out and pointing to other, “behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”  That is a familiar phrase in every Mass.  By pointing to Christ, he realized he was a servant and a follower.
Pointing to Christ can be a great challenge today.  Placing oneself at the service of another can be a daunting task.  It means foregoing with our attachments and shifting our focus on another person’s needs.  It means placing ourselves at the disposal of another person when we have already planned what we want to do for ourselves.
A few days ago, my priest companion was complaining of unusual weakness and headache. It was easy to ignore him because anyway, there are medicines around and I had class assignments to accomplish.  But I realized that in that similar situation, I would want to go and be examined by a doctor.  I resisted my selfish plans for the evening and brought him to the hospital, where he was immediately admitted for pneumonia.
John’s birth challenges us to be grateful for own life and mission.  Like him, our lives have value because we are capable of pointing to Christ by offering ourselves as people who serve the good of others.  Let us celebrate our life!