They came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

The Passion of Saint John the Baptist (Memorial)

Today we celebrate the feast of one of the greatest heroes of our faith:   John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus, who cried out, “Prepare the way of the Lord” (Mark 1:3).

John did not hesitate to speak truth to the powerful, even if it cost him his freedom and his life.   But we sometimes forget that he was not a lone ranger preaching in the desert.   Scripture tells us several times that John had gathered his own disciples.   While in prison, John sent his disciples to Jesus to confirm that he was the Messiah (Matthew 11:2; Luke 7:18).   At his death, John’s disciples came to take his body for burial (Mark 6:29).   How they must have loved him!   It’s likely that they also visited him in prison, encouraging him as he sat in his chains.

This is one of the hidden reasons why John inspires us so much.   He didn’t try to do it all on his own.   As resilient and full of faith as he was, John knew that he needed help, and he willingly accepted it.

John can be a model for each of us.   We all need people to strengthen us in our faith.   They can accompany us in simple things like going to Mass or praying a Rosary.   They can rejoice with us over our blessings and weep with us in our sufferings.   They can visit us in the hospital or comfort us as we approach death.   We are not meant to follow Jesus alone, and companions like these can make the journey much easier and much more joyful.

Of course, spiritual friendship is not one-way.   Even as someone comforts you, your openness and faith can lift them up.   You can support them in their time of need and rejoice with them in times of success.

So think about the people around you.   Many of them are on a faith journey with you.   How do they support you?   How might you support them?   A phone call, a lunch, or an invitation to go to Mass together might make all the difference!   You can follow in John the Baptist’s footsteps and follow Jesus with companions.

“St. John the Baptist, pray for me to remain faithful to the end.”

1 Thessalonians 3:7-13
Psalm 90:3-5, 12-14, 17

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