Luke 1:57-80 tell the story of the John the Baptist’s birth. I have always been drawn to John the Baptist for two reasons: the first is what his role was in the story of Christianity. And the second, is that my oldest brother, who passed away in 2001, was named after John the Baptist. I want to reflect on each of these a bit.
John’s job was to “prepare the way” for Jesus. Can we imagine for a moment what an important task that might just be? John set the stage for so many of Jesus’ teachings. He taught about repentance from sin, forgiveness, baptism and, ultimately, of God’s mercy. In doing so, he built the foundation for a movement that allowed Jesus’ teachings to be more readily accepted and understood.
Growing up, I was a football player (now, I know Father Poppe isn’t the biggest fan of this sport, but hear me out…). One of the more underappreciated roles on a football team is a fullback. It’s his job to lead the way for the hot shot running back. In many plays, a running back’s job is to simply “follow your blocker,” which is the fullback. John was Jesus’ fullback. He took the hits, endured extreme punishment and suffering, all to make the path for Jesus that much easier.
When I think of my brother John, he also in many ways dedicated his life to making the path easier for others – whether it be his family, his co-workers, or simply a confused customer he’d bump into while shopping at Home Depot. My brother’s life was not an easy one. He suffered. He struggled. But through it all, he remained selfless, and gave of himself for the benefit of others.
Each of us is called upon from time to time to be John the Baptist. We are all called upon to “plant a seed in a garden you will never see.” We may be a parent, a teacher, a boss, a mentor, a sibling, a friend. John’s father, Zechariah, knew this when John was born when he ended his song to his son with his own prophesy – that John would “in the shadow of death,…guide our feet into the path of peace.”