A Pointed Meditation

by Fr. Denis Lemieux

On January 9, we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. John the Baptist is not the most important character in that story, but he is important, as the forerunner of the Lord.

I wrote a meditation a few years ago about this saint, and about the larger reality of “the forerunner” of Christ in all our lives. I thought I would dust it off for you and share it.

As we begin a new year and look around at all the challenges it brings us, it’s good to look as well at all the ways Christ’s presence is announced and “foreran” in our lives, too.

Now, for each of us a time will come when Jesus simply is. A time when the Lord is as real to us as the chair we are sitting on, the floor on which we stand, not as a passing experience but as a lived reality, a time when Christ is everything and is in everything.

When we come to this point in our lives, there is no more talk of forerunners. The friend of the Bridegroom has done his job once the Bridegroom has claimed his Bride.

But until then, there are forerunners of the Lord in all of our lives, and by meditating on John’s life and death, we will not only be able to recognize them for what they are, but also come to a deeper penetration into the mystery of this Christ who is everything and in everything.

Let’s go through some of these forerunning mysteries in John’s life and ours.

First, there is his conception and birth. A great joy, an answer to prayers. A desire of the heart granted after many years to Elizabeth and Zechariah. This is in itself a forerunner of Christ: God the giver of all good things.

So, what good things have you received in your life? I’m not talking about great grand things, but just little things—a beautiful summer day, a nice meal made by loving hands, a happy turn of events in your life bringing you some blessing, big or small.

These are forerunners of the Lord, each and all, even the cup of coffee you drank this morning. God has come to make us happy.

Jesus Christ, and our possession of him, is happiness itself. So, every time we receive some little gift or big gift from God, it proclaims the coming of the ultimate Gift. John points to that.

Second, John’s leaping for joy in his mother’s womb. Joy! The experience of joy. Every one of us has these moments, some more, some less, but few of us have never had that exultant leap of the heart, that moment of joy enlivening us from the inside out. This is a great forerunner of God and of Christ.

For God has come not only to make us happy but to make us joyful. And every human experience of joy, no matter how little it seems to have to do with God in that moment, is a proclamation of the Joy to the World for which we are destined. Again, John points to that.

Third, his going out into the desert to live a life of extreme ascetic effort. This is life motivated by idealism, the aspiration to live a life of meaning and greatness.

This is what brings many people to places like Madonna House—the hunger and thirst God has placed in so many human hearts to live a heroic life, a life that is for something, that means something.

This hunger is a profound forerunner of the Lord, even when it is distorted into strange forms of ideological or political commitments that are far from Christ.

Jesus Christ came so that every human being could live a heroic life, could live a life poured out in love, given in him for the world.

The ideals, hopes, and dreams of our youth in particular witness to what Jesus has come to do in us. Once again, John points to that.

Fourth, his preaching a word and a baptism of repentance. Next comes the knowledge of our sins, our need for forgiveness, salvation. Those of us who aren’t brought to God by high ideals and heroic ambition come to him out of desperate need.

This is a profound forerunner of the Lord in many lives—the deep experience of failure and the futility of our own efforts to live a good life. Because, of course, Jesus Christ is the mercy of God poured out, and so the knowledge of sin goes before the knowledge of the Lord in our lives. And there is John once again, pointing to that.

Fifth, his passion and death. John did not die directly as a martyr to Christ, but because of his passion for righteousness, his unyielding concern for and proclamation of the truth of the moral law, of good and evil.

Each of us is made for this—to love what is good and hate what is evil, to choose good and reject evil and sin. The moral law is written in each of our hearts, and it is profoundly a forerunner of Christ in us, because Jesus Christ is goodness itself.

He is our righteousness. The path of living a morally good life cannot be understood fully except in its truest and deepest sense, which is to follow Christ and to live in deep communion with him who is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. John, in his passionate care for moral truth and purity, points to that.

Last of course, but in no way least, is John’s actual pointing out of Christ. Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).

Here he is indeed the forerunner, here he is living out his vocation in its fullness.

All of us come to this point in our lives. Even if we haven’t quite made it to the fullness of faith, the fullness of life in Christ, Jesus who is in everything and is everything—even when this glorious day has not completely dawned in us—we slowly come to know that it is all true nonetheless.

This time when we begin to acknowledge that truth and hesitantly, tentatively begin to stumble after Jesus along the way, is the first frail blossoming of faith in our lives, the forerunner of the heights and depths of faith, hope, and love and life in the Spirit to which Christ will bring us in time. John points us to this.

So, as we enter 2022, may all it holds point us to Christ, so that no matter what challenges this year brings with it, we will know where and to Whom to look for all the answers and help we need.