From the Pastor – December 10, 2023

[John the Baptist said:] “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of His sandals. I have baptized you with water; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mk. 1:7-8)

One of my favorite books by Archbishop Fulton Sheen is called “Life of Christ.” It’s a book that explores the life of Jesus using a great deal of reason and human history. As a seminarian I recall being taken in by the first words:

History is full of men who have claimed that they came from God, or that they were gods, or that they bore messages from God – -Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius, Christ, Lao-tze, and thousands of others, right down to the person who founded a new religion this very day. Each of them has a right to be heard and considered. But as a yardstick external to and outside of whatever is to be measured is needed, so there must be some permanent tests available to all men, all civilizations, and all ages, by which they can decide whether any one of these claimants, or all of them, are justified in their claims. These tests are of two kinds: reason and history. Reason, because everyone has it, even those without faith; history, because everyone lives in it and should know something about it.

Reason dictates that if any one of these men actually came from God, the least thing that God could do to support His claim would be to pre-announce His coming. Automobile manufacturers tell their customers when to expect a new model. If God sent anyone from Himself, or if He came Himself with a vitally important message for all men, it would seem reasonable that He would first let men know when His messenger was coming, where He would be born, where He would live, the doctrine He would teach, the enemies He would make, the program He would adopt for the future, and the manner of His death. By the extent to which the messenger conformed with these announcements, one could judge the validity of his claims.

Sheen then goes on to show a startling number of prophecies throughout the ancient world – from the Far East, the Greeks and the Romans – that pointed to a “king” being born in the Land of Israel at the time of Jesus. How did the magi know to follow the star?

Today we hear John the Baptist described as the messenger. He announces that the Lord will come to baptize with the Holy Spirit. And John is none other than the culmination of all of the Old Testament prophecy. The coming of Christ was foretold. And He foretold that He would come in glory. We can’t say we haven’t been told. We just have to prepare the way for the Lord by getting our souls ready.

(Rev. Msgr.) Christopher H. Nalty