for the truth. They are tired of the burdens imposed upon them by their own leaders, the Pharisees, and the foreign leaders represented by King Herod.
The human soul cannot be kept locked up in the body by repressive systems that continue to lie. Despite the many difficulties that confront the modern world, more and more people are breaking away from the bonds created by sin, materialism and secularism, and are actually living out truly spiritual lives.
To those seeking the baptism that John offers the people in the waters of the Jordan, God gives the multitudes an opportunity to repent of their sins. John's baptism is a testimony of the baptism that will eventually come through Jesus Christ. "A voice of one crying out in the desert: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths'"(Matthew 3: 3).
John's ultimate witness comes in his death. John is a man who is one with his mission and his message. His is incapable of denying either one. In any age the truth will always meet opposition. Jesus makes this very clear to those wishing to be his disciples. In any age, there are those who hear only what they want to hear.
In any age, there are those who will do any thing in order to continue living a lie - even kill. King Herod personifies those human beings who from the beginning of time until the end of time, choose to live a lie, rather than the truth. From the depths of the dungeon, John's martyrdom is a testimony that every disciple of Jesus must persevere.
Saint John the Baptist, a difficult personage of the Bible to understand and perhaps even to relate to, is very relevant for us today. He is a great witness precisely because he is the link between the Old and New Testaments. He is the last of the prophets who announces the coming of the Messiah. He is the first of the disciples who proclaims his coming: "Behold, there is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world" (John 1: 29).
John the Baptist is still relevant for us because as in any age, our age has an urgent need for disciples like John the Baptist. Our world has an urgent need for witnesses.
We must witness that our identity is centered on true spirituality, and that our morality derives from that spirituality. We must witness that our faith challenges many of the values of the dominant secular culture. We must witness that our traditions have great meaning for us. We must witness that challenging commitments offer firm principles by which we may live our lives. We must witness that adherence to traditional morality often comes at a considerable personal cost: perhaps of losing family, friends, even jobs.
We must witness that what we have found in Christ Jesus is true, real and worth living out to the ultimate consequence. We must witness that our seeking solely for lasting happiness as the meaning of life is an indictment of the falsehoods of past generations. We must witness by striving for personal holiness, authenticity and integration.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: John the Baptist, Advent, witness, Herald, missionary, evangelization, prepare for the lord, Fr James Farfaglia
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