Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Advent in June

Dear Theophilus,

The calendar intrigued me somewhat this past weekend. Here we are at the beginning of summer, yet in the Gospel we are reading what mounts to be Advent stories. Granted, these Advent stories of the birth of St. John the Baptist are read every year on his feast day, but with June 24th falling on a Sunday this year they were all the more evident.

Living in Canada, we seem to have lost sight of the meaning of this great fist in the liturgical calendar. We are more inclined to equate la Fête St. Jean Baptiste with the Fête nationale du Québec, a day for that province to express its cultural and linguistic identity. I don’t have a problem with Quebecers expressing their cultural heritage, in fact, it’s something I embrace, however, in the rest of Canada this can been seen in a negative light as this same expression has brought Quebec to the brink of separation from Canada on more than one occasion.

The funny thing is St. John the Baptist’s mission was one to prepare the Israelites for Christ’s unifying mission. Throughout his ministry, St. John the Baptist constantly pointed away from himself and towards Christ:

He must increase, but I must decrease. (Jn 3:30)

What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but one is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of the sandals on his feet. (Acts 13:25)

I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. (Mt 3:11)

It’s only fitting then that on the longest day of the year bonfires are lit in memory of St. John the Baptist. Beacons pointing towards Christ’s coming to purge the world of sin with the fire of his love through the Holy Spirit. At this time of year when Easter joy has become a faded memory and Christmas is too far away to really look forward to, it’s refreshing to recall that Christ’s unifying grace needs to be the focus of our life’s ministry, just as it was for John.

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