By Sarah Damm

John the Baptist (right) with child Jesus by Bartolomé Esteban Perez Murillo, circa 1670,  via Wikipedia. Public Domain.

John the Baptist (right) with child Jesus by Bartolomé Esteban Perez Murillo, circa 1670, via Wikipedia. Public Domain.

Today is the Solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist. As I reflect on the life of John, four themes stand out that we can incorporate into our lives.

Leap for joy. When Mary went to visit Elizabeth, John “leaped for joy” in Elizabeth’s womb at the sound of Mary’s greeting (Luke 1:44). From before his birth, John recognized the work of God in his life as well as his unique purpose, and this caused joy!

Today, reflect on what God has done—and is doing—in your life. Believe the truth that you were “fearfully, wonderfully made” (Psalm 139). Ask God for a spirit of joy to live out your unique role in God’s plan.

Live your baptism. John baptized the people, calling them to repent and live anew. The moment was intended to be a point of change for them. Even Jesus, while He did not need baptism, chose to be baptized to model what we need in our lives.

Pope Francis said, “to know the date of our Baptism is to know a blessed day. The danger of not knowing is that we can lose awareness of what the Lord has done in us, the memory of the gift we have received.” The gift of Baptism is the dignity of becoming beloved children of God. The grace of being adopted into God’s divine family defines us as God’s children, belonging exclusively to Him.

Today, find out your Baptism date as well as the Baptism dates of your children. Mark them in your calendar and celebrate them every year. For those of us who are not parents, do the same for godchildren, nieces, nephews or other special children in your life.

Prepare the way. John the Baptist prepared the people with a message of repentance in order to receive Jesus as the Messiah. Because this is one of the themes of Advent, I recall all of the preparations we make for the birth of Christ at Christmas. We prepare our hearts with prayer and the sacraments; we prepare our homes with decorations; we prepare our family with new  clothes and special gifts. How can we continue this preparation for the Lord throughout the year?

Today, consider how we might live a sense of preparation, no matter what season we are in. Can I add prayer to my day, another Mass to my week? Can I celebrate my Catholic faith in how I decorate my home, by incorporating more statues or holy images? Can I find ways to share my faith with my loved ones through Catholic books or CDs, or by inviting them to a Bible study or conference?

Decrease, that He may increase. John the Baptist never wanted to be in the limelight. He knew that spot was reserved for “one who is more powerful” (Matthew 3:11). John’s humility leads me to question my actions and attitudes. How often do I get caught up in doing things my way? Do I set my own agenda without consulting God’s plan and purpose for me?

Today, let us pray about how we act in our families, workplaces and volunteer opportunities. How can I be more humble in my heart and in my actions? How can I make my marriage less about me and more about my husband and our relationship together? How can I make my mothering less about my comfort and more about my children’s peace and joy? How can I make my work less about my recognition and more about doing my best for God’s glory?

St. John the Baptist, pray for us.