‘Be happy at all times.’ This is the advice St. Paul gives us this weekend , when we hear John the Baptist pointing beyond himself and proving to be a witness for the light.
Because Jesus quoted the opening lines of the passage chosen as the first reading for Mass this weekend, we could ask ourselves the following questions. For you who is the figure we celebrate at Christmas, the figure to whom John the Baptist gave witness? In what ways does He bring light to the world?
Jesus was both prophetic and mystic. He fostered the contemplative side of his own life during what are called the hidden years. We are told he grew ‘in wisdom and grace’, and this would have meant growing in intimacy with God, an intimacy that was as challenging and it was comforting.
When he emerged on the public stage as a prophet, he did not neglect his mystical calling. And the prophetic-mystical element has always been an influential strand in the life of the Church, even if at times a strand not always acknowledged. It is ‘safer’ to separate the two strands, but such separation may not be the Christian way. St. Basil the Great preached eloquently and effectively in favour of the poor, often in ways seriously challenging to the wealthy; St. Catherine of Sienna accompanied condemned prisoners to the scaffold and was active as a peace negotiator. Both saints are also seen – and rightly – as great teachers of the contemplative life.
In combining the contemplative and the mystical, they were faithful followers of the One whom we call the light of the world and to whom John the Baptist gave witness.
Canon Francis Brown