The life of John the Baptist truly epitomised the concept of catechesis. He was prophesised by Isaiah as being “a voice of one that cries in the desert, ‘prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight’” (Matt 3:3). He focused on the value of life and the importance of being spiritually bound to our one true God. He believed that we were created by God for God and not for ourselves, and that we must not allow the world we live in (then and now) to consume us or distract us from serving God.
It is depicted in scripture that his true mission was to win and save souls for God and he did this by preaching and teaching the word. However, John took it a step further by speaking out against the sins of the people and those who ruled at that time. He did this, as we know, to his own detriment, but it was important to him that he demonstrate to believers and converts that the way of the Lord is challenging and that our faith must be stronger than our spirit.
One of John’s best known phrases was “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand” (Matt 3:2). This was his mantra, as he knew that the only way God would give ear to the people was if they repented of their sins and turned from their wicked ways.
When Jesus came to him at the river Jordan to be baptised, John’s humility led him to ask Jesus, “Should it not be you to baptise me?” (Matt 3:14). John, acknowledging Jesus and His true worth, thought he was not fit to remove Jesus’ sandals (Luke 3:16), far more to baptise Him, since he, John, saw himself as a man of the world. But Jesus, being truly divine and in a greater show of humility, replied, “Let it be so for now and do what uprightness demands” (Matt 3:15).
Now, John never expected what followed. As Jesus rose up out of the water, the heavens opened and the Spirit of the Lord came down in the form of a dove, and then a voice spoke from the heavens saying, “This is my Son the Beloved; my favour rests with Him” (Matt 3:17).
What made this event so great was that John witnessed the presence of the Holy Trinity all together, in the same place, at the same time. Now, nowhere else in scripture has this occurred.
In the end, John was arrested by the authorities, imprisoned, tortured and then beheaded, all for the sake of salvation and speaking the word of truth, for those who did this to him could not stand to hear of their sins. He was never afraid, for he knew that death was his ticket to true freedom and the reward of salvation.
Our lives as catechists should mirror to the greater part that of John’s, as he shows us in so many ways what it takes to be a true follower of Jesus. We must see ourselves as ‘salvation warriors’ and know that those we catechise are not trophies but symbolic of the sacrifices we make so that salvation can be granted to all.
Take the walk of John and try to incorporate the following in your catechetical journey: humility, faith, compassion, sacrifice, contentment, love for others and, above all, the will, love and desire to serve God.
God bless and stay strong in faith.
– Andrew Fernandes, Catechetical Co-ordinator, St Patrick’s Church, Newtown