SFX Bulletin, 24th June 2012: In the wake of recent reports on the late term abortion of a seven-month old foetus in China and also Singapore's increased numbers of abortion especially among higher educated women, today's Liturgy of the Word reminds us that every human conception is planned by God for a good purpose.
Even before the discovery of ultrasound and other devices that could let us see inside the body, Isaiah acknowledges God as maker at work in his mother's womb: “he who formed me in the womb to be his servant...” (Isa.49:5). The birth of John the Baptist to Elizabeth, who was believed to be barren and also beyond child-bearing age was seen as a joyous event in which God had shown Elizabeth “so great a kindness" (v.58).
Both Isaiah and John the Baptist knew God had called them to a prophetic career: “The Lord called me before I was born, from my mother's womb he pronounced my name...I will make you the light of the nations so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” (Isa. 49:1;6); “"I am the voice of one calling in the desert, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.'"(Jn. 1:23).
As God-appointed prophets, both Isaiah and John challenged popular but false values while exhorting people to rediscover the true God and repent of their evil ways. They also spoke for those without a voice – the underprivileged, the poor and the victims of injustice. They deflected attention away from themselves emphasising that they were the “voice” of God and as John humbly and joyfully told his disciples about Jesus, “He must increase but I must decrease” (Jn.3:30)
John the Baptist is the only saint whose birthday is celebrated in the Catholic calendar. “His feast reminds us that our life is entirely and always “relative” to Christ and is fulfilled by accepting him, the Word, the Light and the Bridegroom, whose voices, lamps and friends we are [Jn. 1:1,23; 1:7-8; 3:20]” (Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus, 25 June 2006).
Today's feast also reminds us that we have become Jesus' “voices, lamps and friends” through our Baptism. In this spiritual bond which celebrates our “oneness” with God, God has called all of us to experience him personally and be his prophets – our fundamental life purpose. Our roles as parents, adult children, siblings and within the wider family and community context must necessarily centre on our “career” (Acts 13:25) to be the “voice” of Jesus.
If a prophetic career sounds archaic and out-of-place in our modern world, pondering on prevailing moral and ethical norms may reveal that we are perhaps living in an urban wilderness fraught with dangers and threats to life. Today, as in the days of Isaiah and John the Baptist, many are unable to see the truth and are not making choices that lead to peace and happiness. Modern-day erosion of the sense of the sacredness of human life especially towards the unborn and the sick elderly and increasing relativism are threatening the foundations of a value-based civilised society. Religion has guided man for centuries but is now being aggressively replaced by “vague religious mysticism”.
“Having a clear faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and swept along by every wind of teaching looks like the only attitude acceptable to today's standards...” Our Holy Father encourages us to pray and study hard to grow in and properly communicate our faith, “Being an “adult” means having a faith that does not follow the waves of today's fashions or the latest novelties...A faith that is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ is adult and mature...it opens us up to all that is good and gives us the knowledge to judge true from false, and deceit from truth” (Pope Benedict XVI, April 18, 2005)
When friends have doubts, they are not afraid to seek out the truth from the other. While in prison, John was unsure if Jesus was indeed the Messiah although he had earlier pointed him out as the “Lamb of God”. He sent his messengers to ask Jesus “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Lk. 7:18). So let us not be afraid to humbly seek the truth and approach Jesus with questions. As we receive today's eucharist, let us pray to understand how we can be the prophets Jesus has called us to be.
SFX Bulletin, 24th June 2012