C--Monday of 12th Week of OT--Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist

Special Gifts that John the Baptist Received on His Birthday

Joke: Some employees bought their boss a gift for his birthday. Before opening the gift, the boss shook it slightly, and noticed that it was wet in the corner. Touching his finger to the wet spot and tasting it, he asked, "A bottle of wine?" His employees replied, "No." Again, he touched his finger to the box and tasted the liquid. "A bottle of scotch?" "His employees replied again, "No." Finally the boss asked, "I give up. What is it?" His workers responded, "A puppy."

Today, the Church celebrates the birth of John the Baptist, the forerunner for Christ, the Savior of the world. There are three gifts at the birth of John the Baptist, I believe, that give him courage and strength to testify that “Jesus must increase, and he must decrease!”

The First gift of his birthday is the wishing of happy birthday that we all do when we come to celebrate someone’s birthday. Is it really a happy birthday for John the Baptist when the angel announced to Zechariah that his wife will conceive and bear a son which he will name him John? Zechariah was struck dumb because of his unbelieving in the words of the angel. But the moment he wrote down the name of his son “John,” as it is written in today’s Gospel, his tongue was loosened. Not only Zechariah, but his relatives as well were all happy for the boy was born and given the name John. The gift of Happy Birthday to John the Baptist was really rooted in faith when he bore that name John meaning God is gracious.

The Second gift of John’s birthday is the longevity that we often wish for the birthday person “wishing that you have many more years to come happy and joy.” What is that wish of longevity for John the Baptist? Why is it that the wish of longevity for John even though his life on earth was no more than thirty-three years like Jesus? Jesus said in Luke’s Gospel when he saw John coming toward him, “This is the one about whom it is written: ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you?’” (Lk 7:27) His life was already in the mind of God even before he was formed in his mother’s womb just as in Psalm 139 said that the Lord has chosen him and called him even before he was formed in his mother’s womb. Therefore, the actual birthday of John the Baptist is in the mind of God even before John is formed in his mother’s womb. Therefore, unlike any wish of longevity for a birthday’s person counting from the birth of the person, John the Baptist’s longevity counted far before his birth. It is truly wish of longevity on his birthday.

The last gift of John’s birthday is not like the gift that we give to a birthday person like a card, a watch, a dress, a hat or any other material thing, but it is the Lord Jesus, the Savior himself. If we recalled in Scripture, when Mary, the mother of Jesus, heard that her cousin Elizabeth conceived a child, she hurried to go to meet her. The moment Mary met Elizabeth, John in her womb jumped with joy. Mary was conceived Jesus at the moment that the angel announced to her. “When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting,” Saint Luke reports in his writing, “the baby leaped in her womb!” (Lk 1:41) John’s most valuable gift on his birthday is the Lord Jesus himself. It is a best gift of all the birthday’s gifts in history and in our time.

Just as John the Baptist received his three special gifts on his birthday, what have you and I received at our birthday? At the given name of “John,” his father’s tongue was loosen and every relatives happy, so at our baptism, we are given a baptismal name of a Saint to remind ourselves to live a life of following that Saint. Have we lived the life of our baptismal saint? At his second gift of his birthday, John was chosen to be born even before he was born, have you and I remembered to thank the Lord for the gift of this life since we are all his children even before we were born? His most important and special gift of all was to receive the Lord Jesus himself, have you and I treasured the moment that we were allowed to receive the First Holy Communion, and perhaps, each time we come up to receive Communion? Perhaps, every year we celebrate our birthday, we are reminded the most important gift of all is the gift of the Lord Jesus Christ himself each time we receive him at the Eucharist. Each time we receive him at the Eucharist is each time we rejoice and celebrate our birthday again.



Weekday Homilies 2019

Homilies by Fr. Joseph Thang Nguyen

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