December 10: The One Who Comes Before the Savior

Published December 10, 2015 by Unprodigal Daughter

Thursday

In the Catholic tradition, we believe there are few special things about St. John the Baptist. As we approach Christmas, many of you have probably noticed that John the Baptist pops up frequently in Scriptures at this time, including the Visitation and stories of John prophesying the coming of his cousin. We always remember him as the holy man who was related to Jesus.

But the significance of his ministry and the stories we have of him in Scriptures are more than just tales of a good person who lived a long time ago. John the Baptist’s life illustrates the power of God to us.

When we first learn of John the Baptist, it is before he is even born–when Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth in the hill country. Elizabeth tells Mary, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (Luke 1:42). This event is significant. Elizabeth and John the Baptist become the second and third believers of Christ’s coming (Mary is the first, at the Annunciation). The awesomeness of Christ’s coming becomes evident in this verse, because even an infant recognizes that Jesus is the Messiah foretold.

Elizabeth shows her faith with her exclamation that we read in Luke 1:42, and John, while still in the womb, leaps for joy. This, combined with the fact that it was foretold to John’s father that he was to be filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb (“And he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born”, Luke 1:15), is an affirmation both of Christ’s coming and of the power of God. John’s leap for joy is an indication of the presence of the Holy Spirit–and freedom from original sin (yes, John the Baptist was born without original sin–you can read about it here). 

John’s faith stayed with him for a lifetime, telling the people that someone was coming who was greater than he: “‘I baptize with water,’ John replied, ‘but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.’” (John 1:26). 

John shows us what we can accomplish if we let Christ transform us. He shows us that Christ is all-powerful while simultaneously humble. Let us follow his example.

Opening Prayer

Instead of the traditional opening prayer, let us read the story of the Visitation to remember John the Baptist and his encounter with the Holy Spirit while still in the womb: 

 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:39-45). 

Daily Readings

Reading 1: IS 41:13-20

I am the LORD, your God,
who grasp your right hand;
It is I who say to you, “Fear not,
I will help you.”
Fear not, O worm Jacob,
O maggot Israel;
I will help you, says the LORD;
your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.
I will make of you a threshing sledge,
sharp, new, and double-edged,
To thresh the mountains and crush them,
to make the hills like chaff.
When you winnow them, the wind shall carry them off
and the storm shall scatter them.
But you shall rejoice in the LORD,
and glory in the Holy One of Israel.

The afflicted and the needy seek water in vain,
their tongues are parched with thirst.
I, the LORD, will answer them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
I will open up rivers on the bare heights,
and fountains in the broad valleys;
I will turn the desert into a marshland,
and the dry ground into springs of water.
I will plant in the desert the cedar,
acacia, myrtle, and olive;
I will set in the wasteland the cypress,
together with the plane tree and the pine,
That all may see and know,
observe and understand,
That the hand of the LORD has done this,
the Holy One of Israel has created it.

____________________________
Responsorial Psalm: PS 145:1 AND 9, 10-11, 12-13AB

R. The Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger, and of great kindness.
I will extol you, O my God and King,
and I will bless your name forever and ever.
The LORD is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works.
R. The Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger, and of great kindness.
Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your Kingdom
and speak of your might.
R. The Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger, and of great kindness.
Let them make known to men your might
and the glorious splendor of your Kingdom.
Your Kingdom is a Kingdom for all ages,
and your dominion endures through all generations.
R. The Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger, and of great kindness.

_____________________________

Gospel: MT 11:11-15

Jesus said to the crowds:
“Amen, I say to you,
among those born of women
there has been none greater than John the Baptist;
yet the least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
From the days of John the Baptist until now,
the Kingdom of heaven suffers violence,
and the violent are taking it by force.
All the prophets and the law prophesied up to the time of John.
And if you are willing to accept it,
he is Elijah, the one who is to come.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

Multimedia

John the Baptist also shows us the humility of Jesus. As we recall from Scriptures, John actually baptizes Jesus, even though Jesus does not need to be baptized. For a video on the Baptism of the Lord, go here.

Additional Activities

With all the secular Christmas music being played 24/7 on the radio, sometimes it is nice to listen to something a little more Christ-oriented. For a Christ-centered Advent playlist, go here.

Closing Prayer

Let us pray that we, like John the Baptist, prepare for the advent of Christ.

God our strength and our hope,
grant us the courage of John the Baptist,
constantly to speak the truth,
boldly to rebuke vice
and patiently to suffer for the truth’s sake;

in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord
who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit
one God now and for ever.
Amen.

(taken from http://liturgy.co.nz/reflection/652.html.)

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