The angel had told Zachariah that the birth of John would bring great joy to many. Isn’t it moving that today, over 2,000 years later, the birth of that little boy continues to bring great joy to souls? What is the source of that joy? It is this: the birth of the Baptist announces the coming of Christ, that Jesus whose ways John was to prepare. And so we rejoice for all that has come to us through this child as it is recorded in the sacred history of the New Testament.
But we can also see in the Baptist the forerunner of all those who are called upon to prepare the paths of grace in souls. Nothing gives greater joy to a man than to lead a soul to Christ. John the Baptist says as much in the third chapter of the Gospel of John:
“He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, who standeth and heareth Him, rejoiceth with joy because of the bridegroom’s voice. This my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase: but I must decrease” (Jn 3:29-30)
The bridegroom is our Lord Jesus Christ who has come into this world in order to lead each soul to the intimacy of divine nuptials with Himself. John the Baptist is the prototype of souls who are called to work together with Christ, to bring souls to Him, to prepare them for such a lofty destiny. And then, once he has lead them to Christ, he steps aside: He must increase, I must decrease.
Such is the mission, the honour and glory of priests and all those who work in the Lord’s vineyard to lead souls to Jesus. May our joy become full indeed by the sight of legions of souls discovering their calling to become bride of Christ!