One day last week I attended a luncheon in honour of the late Monsignor William Irwin, founder of Catholic Social Services. In attendance were some Grade 4 students from the school named after Msgr Irwin. They were there to sing for the crowd that had assembled. I had an opportunity to meet the children prior to the event. At one point I asked, “Why didn’t you invite me to sing with you?” One little girl promptly responded, “‘Cause we didn’t want to!” Oh well, at least I know where I stand.
The Mass on Sunday celebrating the birth of St. John the Baptist reminded all of us of the invitation that the Church very much does want to extend. Indeed, issuing this invitation is the very reason the Church exists! We want to invite others to know, love and follow Jesus Christ. St. John the Baptist was born to be the Lord’s herald and forerunner, to point everyone to Jesus as the fulfillment of their deepest longings. Each of us, born anew in Baptism, is summoned to the same purpose.
Humanity in every age is in need of Jesus Christ. To the question of life’s meaning, he is the answer; against the virus of falsehood, he is the antidote; for the wounded human heart, he is the remedy; and to all who suffer from grief and despair, he is consolation and hope. Moreover, Jesus is the one to whom we must turn not only in respect of the trials of our earthly journey but also – and most importantly – as regards our hope for eternal life. He is the Saviour, the Way to life without end in communion with God.
So, extending the invitation to turn to Christ is perennially necessary and always urgent. Yet, how to do it? Often people share with me that they desire very much to engage the world with the Gospel, to confront the issues of the day with the truths of faith, but feel they do not have the words to speak. On this point, we can turn to John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah, for inspiration.
When Gabriel first announced to him that he and his wife Elizabeth, in their old age, would have a son, Zechariah did not believe. He was consequently left unable to speak. When later, at the birth of John, Zechariah indicated his acquiescence in faith to the plan of God for his son, speech returned to him. This episode underscores the important relationship between faith and speech. When we believe, we are able to speak.
Faith opens us to the wondrous truth of God and his plan for the world. By faith we both understand what is manifested to us and surrender to that which is revealed. Believing opens our eyes to ultimate meaning, and this awakening renders our speech meaningful. Contrast this with the banality and superficiality of the messaging that washes over us from TV, radio, Internet, social media, magazines and the like. The human mind and heart long to see and apprehend what is true, good and beautiful. This is given in Jesus Christ.
By the intercession of St. John the Baptist, may our faith grow so that we shall have the deep desire and the requisite speech to issue the invitation to encounter Jesus Christ.