This past Friday, June 24th, we celebrated the Nativity of John the Baptist. Throughout our Diocese, we give thanks for the life and witness of John the Baptist. John the Baptist is the Patron Saint of our Diocese and is the only saint other than the Virgin Mary whose birthday(hence the term nativity) is celebrated by the Church in a liturgical feast. The Nativity of John the Baptist on June 24th comes three months after the celebration on March 25th of the Annunciation and six months before the Christmas celebration of the birth of Jesus. The purpose of these festivals is not to commemorate the exact dates of the events, but simply to commemorate them in a connected way.|
While walking through the forest one day, a man found a young eagle that had fallen out of his nest. He took it home and put it in his barnyard where it soon learned to eat and behave like the chickens. One day a naturalist passed by the farm and asked why it was that the king of all birds should be confined to live in the barnyard with the chickens. The farmer replied that since he had given it chicken feed and trained it to be a chicken, it had never learned to fly. Since it now behaved as the chickens, it was no longer an eagle. "Still it has the heart of an eagle," replied the naturalist, "and can surely be taught to fly." He lifted the eagle toward the sky and said, "You belong to the sky and not to the earth. Stretch forth your wings and fly." The eagle, however, was confused. He did not know who he was, and seeing the chickens eating their food, he jumped down to be with them again. The naturalist took the bird to the roof of the house and urged him again, saying, "You are an eagle. Stretch forth your wings and fly." But the eagle was afraid of his unknown self and world and jumped down once more for the chicken food. Finally the naturalist took the eagle out of the barnyard to a high mountain. There he held the king of the birds high above him and encouraged him again, saying, " You are an eagle.
You belong to the sky. Stretch forth your wings and fly." The eagle looked around, back towards the barnyard and up to the sky. Then the naturalist lifted him straight towards the sun and it happened that the eagle began to tremble. Slowly he stretched his wings, and with a triumphant cry, soared away into the heavens.
For many people life is a lot like that story, only they never stretch out their wings and attempt to fly. We try to find our identity in many places, and many of those places are destructive. We crave love and attention so much that we settle for anything that even resembles it. We crave status and respect and when we cannot find it they are fooled by illusions offered in various other avenues. We long for the approval of others that we fall into the world of drugs and alcohol. In each case, people are looking for the fulfilled life, that life like the eagle, and instead they wind up more confused as to who they are, and where they fit into the world.
“I am not the one you imagine me to be…” Identity seems to be something about which both John the Baptist and Jesus were concerned. John is quite clear about who he is although there are lots of people trying to tell him differently. His mother and father got it right: We have Elizabeth’s declaration of John’s great leap of joy at the recognition of Jesus' presence and Zechariah’s belated proclamation - “And you child shall be called the prophet of the Most High…” Both persons affirm this identity.
In his adult life when John is questioned about his identity, he answers very clearly – I am NOT the Messiah. When Jesus asks his disciples: “Who do people say that I am?” many answer: John the Baptist. Both John and Jesus are very clear about THEIR own identity, even though others are not clear. Yet, Jesus and John the Baptist do not allow the doubts/ confusion of others to interfere with their own fulfilment of their mission.
Perhaps we too can at times be side-tracked by what others are saying about us. Is it time to ask yourself: Who do you say who YOU are? Why not allow John the Baptist to inspire you with some of his strength of spirit and clear sense of purpose! So, you too may say: “I praise you, O God, because I am wonderfully made.”
Rev’d. Fr. Colin Humes