Isaiah 49:1-6 / Acts 13:22-26 / Luke 1:57-66, 80
The birth of St. John the Baptist is one of the three nativities that the Church celebrates in the liturgy. The other two are the birth of Jesus at Christmas and the birth of our Lady which is on the 8th Sept.
These three births are of important significance because all three point to an appointed time, a time in which God’s plan of salvation is to be fulfilled, a time of blessings, a time of abundant graces.
This weekend we celebrate the birth of St. John the Baptist. On this special occasion, it would be appropriate to have a statue of St. John the Baptist for veneration. Actually we do have a statue of St. John the Baptist. It is at the 2nd floor office. But unfortunately, it needs quite a bit of restoration and we are waiting for God to send the appointed person to do it.
Anyway, the name “John” means “God is gracious” or “the graciousness of God”. So we just wait and see how the grace of God is going to work from here.
St. John the Baptist was a prophet, the greatest of all the prophets because it was he who pointed out to the people who the Saviour is. And of course the Saviour is Jesus. The name “Jesus” means “God saves”.
So when we combine the meanings of the name of John and the name of Jesus, then we get this wonderful revelation : It is by the grace of God that we are saved.
So John the Baptist turned out to be a prophet, a great prophet, even the greatest prophet. And that answered the people’s question: What will this child turn out to be?
So John the Baptist turned out to be a prophet. But his father, Zechariah, was a priest. But whether a priest or a prophet, both have the same purpose and that is to be in service to God for the salvation of the people.
And here, I would like to share some reflections on my service to God and to His people over the last 20 years as a priest, and especially in my three and a half years at the Church of the Sacred Heart.
This church has a special significance for my parents because they were married in this church, and now I am serving in this church, so it is only right and just that I give thanks for the priesthood.
My parents had three children, and I am the second child. Some people have asked me if I have heard the call to the priesthood when I was young. I can’t be sure, but maybe there were some indications when I was in my mother’s womb.
She was about 7 months pregnant (quite heavily pregnant already) when she went to the wet market wearing those flimsy rubber slippers. After doing the marketing, she was going down the steps when she slipped and landed heavily.
We know that St. John the Baptist leapt for joy in his mother’s womb when Mary greeted Elizabeth.
When my mother slipped and landed heavily, I could have leapt out prematurely. But thanks be to God, the water bag was not broken, there was some pain, but I didn’t come out.
Maybe I was too stubborn to come out. But it was more like my appointed time has not come yet, so I remained in my mother’s womb till full term.
The drama didn’t end there. When I was about two months old, my mother put me on the bed because she had to look after my sister and do some chores.
She was quite sure that I wouldn’t roll around or turn over because babies don’t do that at two months. Anyway, she had the experience of my sister so she left me on the bed, and went on to do her chores, expecting me to fall asleep.
Then as she was doing the cooking, she heard a sound from the bedroom where I was, a sound like something fell to the ground. She quickly dropped her cooking and rushed to the bedroom and found me on the floor faced down.
Of course she panicked and quickly picked me up, but I was silent. But after a couple of nudges, then I started crying (probably because I was too shocked at first to cry).
There was a big swelling on my forehead. Seems that my head hit the floor first. Till this day, my mother couldn’t figure out how I double-turned and rolled off the bed and fell.
But thank God there was no permanent damage (I think so). And don’t ask me what happened to what my mother was cooking. Ask my mother.
But of course, these things happen, but they happen at the appointed time and for a purpose. So the appointed happenings continued, with my breaking the news to my parents about going to the Seminary and then finally getting ordained.
Fast forward to the appointed happening of my posting here as the parish priest, and three and a half years later I am here with you giving thanks for the priesthood on the celebration of the birth of St. John the Baptist.
And on this joyous celebration of the birth of St. John the Baptist and giving thanks to God for the priesthood, I want to summarise everything in just three words – blessings and graces.
We are blessed with a little and beautiful church, as well as a holy and mystical church where people can find rest and peace in a busy and noisy Orchard Road area.
So let us in this holy place always give thanks and with love in our hearts offer a pure and worthy sacrifice to the Lord as the priestly People of God.
We also have a devotion that brings us right into the heart of Jesus. What we need to ask of Jesus is to make our hearts like His, and with Jesus in our hearts, we will truly see signs and wonders.
But we also need to be aware of the “adverse spirit”, which wants to deform our hearts from being holy into a divided, broken and wounded heart.
Oh yes, we have to keep that “adverse spirit” out and keep our hearts united in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
So as we gaze into the future and think about our purpose in life and our mission, and what we will turn out to be, let us also remember our prophetic role and that is to make the way straight for the Lord, so that we can lead others along the way of salvation.
So my duty is to prepare for the Lord a people worthy to be called a priestly People of God, offering a pure and holy sacrifice for the salvation of the world. And that is what you are – a holy people and a priestly people.
Yes, the appointed time has come and it is now. We celebrate, we give thanks, and with the prayers of St. John the Baptist, let us go forth to make the Sacred Heart of Jesus known and loved.
That is our prophetic mission; that is also our priestly mission.