We celebrated the feast day of Saint John the Baptist on Friday. Many years ago, it was a huge celebration in the Church, kind of like Christmas. It is still considered a solemnity, the highest rank of a church day. But back in the middle ages, everyone went to church on John the Baptist’s feast day, everyone celebrated.
We Christians developed a lot of ways to celebrate St John. One is to eat snails, which apparently, in pagan times, represented discord and problems. Now, since St. John the Baptist came to point to the one who would remove all discord and problems, we eat snails to get rid of what they represent…I guess. Another way to celebrate St John the Baptist is to dance, because John danced inside his mother’s womb when in the presence of Mary and the baby Jesus in her womb. Another way: In the Philippines, they celebrate John the Baptist by dumping water on each other’s heads to mark the day, because that is what John did for Jesus.
There is one other tradition on the feast of St John the Baptist that I want to consider. The tradition is to run through fire. This is because it has been said that John the Baptist never allowed anything to stand in the way of his journey of faith, even fire. Nothing could stop John from following Jesus.
Our readings today talk about how easy it is for us to make excuses. We see excuses in the first reading and the Gospel. “I will follow you Lord, but first let me bury my father.” That’s one of the excuses in our scriptures today, and it’s a pretty good one. But Jesus uses a good example to teach us that NOTHING ought to take priority over His Holy Will. Nothing.
I think we make excuses often.
– I will follow you Lord, but first let me play my video games.
– I will follow you Lord, but first let me go to the movies
– I will follow you Lord, but first let me go hang out with my friends
– I will read the Bible, but I just don’t understand it enough to do that yet
– I will pray Lord, but first let me clean the house
– I will sign up for a holy hour, but first I will get some thing together in my life
– I will sign up to help in the food pantry, but later
– I will be a good Catholic, but only once I’m 75
– I will seek the sacrament of matrimony Lord, but first I will do this or that
– I will get my baby baptized but first let me raise money for a big party
– BLAH BLAH BLAH
This morning I was at the First Mass of Fr. Doug Hunter. The priest there was talking about the same thing. He started his homily by saying, “How big is your ‘but’? How big are your excuses as to why you can’t follow God’s will for your life? How many buts are there in this sentence: “I will follow you Lord, BUT…” Then this priest said something that brought about quite some laughter. He said, “I want all of us to consider the size of Fr. Doug’s ‘but.'” Fr. Doug is not a skinny man. But he had made a lot of excuses as to why he shouldn’t become a priest over his years. But God had his way.
We also make a lot of excuses. But Jesus continues to say: FOLLOW ME. Now. May we follow him, just like John the Baptist….even through fire….