Decreasing with John the Baptist

sand dunes

“Sand dunes” by erdenebayar (2014) via Morguefile.

On Wednesday we celebrate the birthday of St. John the Baptist, the voice calling out in the wilderness, cousin of Jesus, and who was beheaded for daring to speak out again Herod’s unlawful marriage, bequeathed to us the message, “He must increase. I must decrease.”

St. Augustine in one of his sermons pointed out how John’s birthday falls appropriately near the summer solstice–after which the days begin to shorten—as opposed to Christmas, after which the days lengthen, symbolizing the humility that John preached and lived:

So let both their deaths also speak of these two things: ‘It is necessary for him to grow, but for me to diminish.’ The one grew on the Cross, the other was diminished by the sword. Their deaths have spoken of this mystery, let the days do so too. Christ is born, and the days start increasing; John is born, and the days start diminishing. So let man’s honor diminish, God’s honor increase, so that the honor of man may be found in the honor of God.

Humility and marriage are inextricably and seemingly paradoxically bound up in the life of this glorious—and celibate—prophet. One way to honor our great brother’s birth week might be to take a look at how humility and marriage intersect in our lives.

In my marriage: How can I grow in humility in my own marriage? Is there a sore point in our relationship that would improve with humility? Is there some small argument in our marriage that I can “lose” in order to bring about greater peace and to show my spouse sacrificial love?

Others’ marriages: Do I have bad thoughts about another couple’s marriage? Might God be calling me to instead say a prayer for them today?

The Church’s teaching on marriage: Is there an issue regarding the Church’s teaching on marriage that I struggle with? Could I do some research on the topic as an act of love for and trust in God today? (The USCCB might be a helpful place to start.)

May the birthday of St. John the Baptist and the new, shorter days remind us of our call to die to ourselves so that we might live in the glorious love of God.

Copyright Meg Matenaer (2015).
“Sand dunes” by erdenebayar (2014) via Morguefile.


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