Homily — Nativity of St. John the Baptist MMVII 6/24/07

Homily — Nativity of St. John the Baptist MMVII 6/24/07

Father Blain's ordination picture - before the beard

You will go before the Lord to prepare His way.

Almost a quarter of a century ago, in August of 1983, a dark haired, dark bearded man came driving in to town down Mendon Road in his 1980 Chevy Sedan.

Ronald Regan was in the White House, Buddy Cianci was mayor of Providence (for the first time around), Marquette Credit Union was going strong – and I was not even a junior in High School yet.

Cell phones, PC’s, the World Wide Web, and Route 99 were all still a long way off in the future.

As he pulled in to the garage of St. Joseph Rectory (which is now the Rectory Office), this dark haired, dark bearded priest turned off the 8-track player in his car, snuffed out his cigar in the ashtray, finished the can of Tab diet cola he’d been drinking, and took the final suitcases out of his car trunk.

Rev. Joseph Albert Lionel Blain, Doctor of Philosophy, had arrived to begin what was to be a 24 year term as Pastor of St. Joseph Church, ending this weekend as he says goodbye to us at the end of all the Sunday Masses.

This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist. And although the world has changed much in the 24 years Father Blain has spent at St. Joseph, it pales in comparison to the changes which took place during the 34 years John the Baptist spent on earth.

For when John the Baptist arrived on earth, at his conception in the womb of his mother Elizabeth, Satan was still the reigning prince of the world.

The archangel Gabriel had not yet appeared to the Virgin Mary. No star of Bethlehem was yet seen, no “Glory to God in the Highest” was yet heard sung, and no Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world was yet to be found.

But in that 34 year period from the conception of John the Baptist to his death as a martyr, the Word became Flesh and Dwelt amongst us; Christ the Savior of the world was born in the manger; Jesus was Baptized in the Jordan River;

Water was turned into wine; The Gospel began finally to be proclaimed, and the Kingdom of God had come to earth as Satan’s empire began to crumble and fall.

And in the midst of all those historical changes which occurred during his lifetime, John the Baptist was no mere passive onlooker. By God’s grace, John was rather an active participant in ushering in the Kingdom of God. He was an active participant in preparing the Way of the Lord Jesus.

And you and I, and every baptized believer in Christ are also called by God, not to be passive onlookers but to be active participants in the building up of Christ’s Kingdom on earth.

This weekend, as Father Blain leaves us as Pastor, we should look back on the past quarter century and honor Father Blain for the many ways in which he has prepared the way for the Lord’s coming into the hearts of the people of East Woonsocket.

How through well over 6000 Masses, 6000 Sermons (6000 jokes?) Fr. Blain has gone before Christ in the spirit and power of Elijah.

How through the dozens of parish missions he organized, the dozens of weddings and baptisms he’s celebrated, the hundreds of confessions and funerals and anointings of the sick and dying he’s done, the countless hours of work for the homeless and for inter-religious dialogue — all have helped prepare a people fit for Lord.

And finally, we look back on 24 years of day to day administration, on the dozens of parish dinners and dances and picnics, and on the major renovation and expansion of the Church he saw to complete, and we thank God for all the ways Father Blain has, like John the Baptist, helped so many people to Behold the Lamb of God.

The Church celebrates the Birthday of John the Baptist every year in late June for two reasons.

One is because June 24 is one of the longest and brightest days of the year, naturally speaking. This is to symbolize what Jesus said of John: Of all those born of woman (naturally speaking), no one is greater than John the Baptist.

The second and more important reason is because it’s the time of year when the days start getting shorter and shorter each day until late December, when at around the time we celebrate Christ’s birth, the days start getting longer and longer. And this is to symbolize what John said of Jesus: He must increase, while I must decrease.

As Father Blain goes off to a well earned retirement, and as this (currently) dark haired priest speaking to you becomes pastor of this parish, and as we all look forward to whatever changes the coming years will hold for us, may those words of John the Baptist be always before us.

He must increase, while I must decrease. May our sinfulness, our selfishness, our fearfulness to do the Father’s Will decrease in each of us; and may His Love, His Peace, His Joy and His Gospel increase for Fr. Blain and all of us for many many years to come.

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