1/8.1 The vocation of John the Baptist. An Advent figure.
O people of Sion, behold, the Lord will come to save the nations and the Lord will make the glory of his voice heard in the joy of your heart.
Behold, the Lord will come ... The Saviour is about to arrive and nobody notices anything. The world goes on as usual, completely oblivious. Only Mary knows – and Joseph who has been told by the angel. The world is in darkness. Christ is still in Mary’s womb. And there are the Jews, still arguing about the Messiah, without any idea that he is so near ... Few people are expecting the Consolation of Israel: Simeon, Anna ... We are in Advent, a time of waiting.
During this liturgical period the Church proposes the figure of John the Baptist for our meditation. For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he spoke of: The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
The Messiah’s coming was preceded by prophets who announced his arrival from afar, like heralds who announce the arrival of a great king. John appears as the dividing line between the two Testaments, the Old and the New. Our Lord himself teaches something about John when He talks about ‘the law and the prophets down to John the Baptist’. He is the personification of antiquity and the announcement of new times. As representing antiquity, he is born to elderly parents. As one who is a harbinger of new times, he shows that he has been a prophet from his mother’s womb. He has not yet been born when, at Our Lady’s arrival, he leaps for joy inside his mother. John is called ‘the prophet of the Most High’, because his mission is ‘to go before the Lord to prepare his ways, teaching the knowledge of salvation to his people’.
The whole of John’s life is determined by this mission, even from his mother’s womb. This is to be his vocation. His whole purpose will be to prepare, for Jesus, a people capable of receiving the Kingdom of God. At the same time he is to give public testimony of Him. John will not seek personal fulfilment through his work but has come to prepare a perfect people for the Lord. He will not do it because it appeals to him, but because it was for this very purpose he was conceived. This is what all apostolate is about: forgetting oneself and fostering a true concern for others.
John was to carry out his task to the full, even to the extent of giving up his life in the fulfilment of his vocation. Many came to know Jesus through John the Baptist’s apostolic work. It was through an express indication of his that the first disciples followed Jesus. And many others were inwardly prepared thanks to his preaching.
One’s vocation embraces one’s whole life, and our whole being works towards fulfilment of the divine mission. God makes the conversion of many children of Israel depend on John’s future response.
In his own place and circumstances, each man has a God given vocation. The divine will desires many other things that depend on the fulfilment of that vocation. Many great things depend – don’t forget it – on whether you and I live our lives as God wants. Do we bring the people around us closer to God? Do we give good example in the way we carry out our work, in our family circle, in our social relations? Do we speak about God to our colleagues or fellow students?