Today’s collect for the Nativity of St. John the Baptist mentions his wondrous birth as recounted in Luke’s Gospel. It then summons us to follow his teaching and example. The Church thinks very highly of John the Baptist. Jesus does also. He says of his cousin that nobody is naturally greater than him.
But Jesus goes on to say that John’s greatness is exceeded by the least in the kingdom of heaven. What can we make of this?
In Richard Rohr’s phrase, John was a first half of life person. He condemned social evils at great cost to himself. He was harsh and accurate in doing so. Part of John’s greatness was that he pointed beyond himself. He was a bold and wild
witness to the light.
Jesus takes us further. God’s kingdom is not a matter of getting everything right. It is the realm where forgiveness and mercy prevail, where sinners do not get what they deserve, but experience a transformation they cannot deserve.
John paves the highway; Jesus is the destination.
We honor John best when we allow him to point us to Jesus.
The Rev. Charles Hoffacker is a retired priest of the Diocese of Washington