Fearfully, Wonderfully Made

(Homily - Birth of John the Baptist)

Bottom line: The marvelous manner we are formed in our mother's womb suggests that God has sketched a destiny for each of us. We see those two dimensions illustrated in the Birth of John the Baptist.

Today we celebrate the Birth of St. John the Baptist. It is such an important feast that it replaced the ordinary Sunday readings and prayers. In the readings we can see two dimensions: one natural and the other supernatural.

Psalm 139 expresses the natural dimension of human birth: "Truly you have formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother's womb." At the beginning of the third millennium we have some advantages in appreciating that verse. All of us have seen those beautiful pictures - and even videos - of pre-born children. And all of have at least heard of the human genome project: How teams of scientists worked for years to map out the basic information package, which we have from the first moment of our existence. The human genome, they tell us, contains contains more information than a complete set of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Much more: One science writer stated, "The genome is like a vast string of unpunctuated letters--long enough to fill 13 sets of the Encyclopedia Britannica." (See: Your Body Manual THE HUMAN GENOME.) Shakespeare said, "What a piece of work is man!" Or as today's Psalm says: we are fearfully, wonderfully made.

The natural dimension of human existence is marvelous, beyond imagining. But there is something more. Isaiah speaks about God calling us from birth, knowing our name from our mother's womb. To know someone's name implies relationship and purpose. We see that in the Gospel. On the eighth day, on the day of circumcision they asked Zechariah what name he would give his son. He surprised them by writing, "John." The name means, "The grace of God" or "God Is gracious." It speaks of the child's destiny: to prepare the way for the Messiah by proclaiming a baptism of repentance.

You and I, of course, do not have such an exalted destiny. Yet God did know our name from before we were born - and he has sketched out a plan for each of us. May we be like John who wholeheartedly embraced his destiny. It was no bed of roses: John suffered deprivation, loneliness, hard labor, imprisonment and a martyr's death. Yet he accepted his calling. You and I have suffered much less - and perhaps have resisted our calling. If that is the case, then we need to hear John's invitation to repentance. It is not too late. God is gracious.


Spanish Version

From the Archives (Solemnity of Birth of John the Baptist):

Baptism of Repentance (2018)
The Herald of Freedom (Nativity of St. John the Baptist 2012)
Fearfully, Wonderfully Made (Nativity of St. John the Baptist 2007)
God Is Gracious (Nativity of St. John the Baptist 2001)

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