If you’ve read my gospel reflections for any length of time, you know I am a fan of John the Baptist. As I’ve said many times, it probably doesn’t surprise anyone that I am a fan of a saint who was unorthodox in style and appearance and referred to the religious leaders of the time as a “brood of vipers.”

I think one of my favorite titles given to John the Baptist is that of the “forerunner.” John “went public” with his ministry before Jesus did. His mission was to “prepare the way” for Christ. I think that one of the things we overlook about John is that his mission could not have been easy. This isn’t to say it was more difficult or noble than the work our Lord and savior did, but it carried with it its own set of hardships and difficulties.

I personally think that one of the hardest things about the work that John did is that there was no immediate reward or validation. John did not get to witness the triumph of the cross and resurrection. In fact, he was already in prison when Jesus started performing miracles.

John’s life was essentially one of a “radical, hermit monk” who entered public ministry in order to prophesy about the coming Messiah. It was a short and intense ministry that ended with his martyrdom when he spoke out against an unlawful marriage (certainly something to consider in this day and age when many Catholics leave the Church because they disagree with the Church for upholding Christ’s teaching about the finality of a valid marriage).

I’m sure many of you have found yourself, at one time or another, a part of a new ministry that struggled to get “off the ground.” You may have found yourself constantly fighting just to keep the ministry barely moving forward. You may have asked yourself, “Is it even worth it?” In time, you may have left the work you were doing so that someone else could come in and take over. You may even still look back on that time and think, “What did I ever accomplish?”

In spite of all this, I am willing to bet that you acted as a kind of “John the Baptist” for that particular ministry. The work you did to get the ministry going and the battles you fought to move it forward in its infant stages were most likely essential to its survival. God used you to do something that nobody else could do at that time and place. Yes. It may have been hard. Yes. It may have been miserable. No. Maybe you didn’t get to see the finished product. And, No. Maybe you didn’t get to be the “one” who was recognized for the successes that came after you left. However, there was a job to be done, God called you, and you answered the call.

Just remember that the same could be said about John the “forerunner.”

A Reading from the Holy Gospel According to St. Luke (3:1-6)
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,
when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea,
and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee,
and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region
of Ituraea and Trachonitis,
and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene,
during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas,
the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.
John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan,
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,
as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
Every valley shall be filled
and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

About The Tattooed Catholic…
Jean Pierre “Pete” Espil is a Catholic Youth minister who has worked with teenagers and youth for the last 16 years. He has spent the last 9 years in full time ministry but prior to that he worked with teens in shelter homes, treatment centers and detention centers. He grew up in the state of Idaho (USA) and currently lives in Caldwell Idaho where he is the youth minister at Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Church. He also travels to speak to Catholic youth in different states and countries when time allows.

His approach to youth ministry and the practice of his Faith falls somewhere between St. Benedict and Dog the Bounty Hunter. Unorthodox in style and appearance, Pete loves to break down stereotypes about what a “Christian” should look and act like. He has a BA degree in Linguistics from Boise State University (Boise, ID) and is an Oblate in the Benedictine tradition.

When he isn’t working with teens you can find him practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, playing his drums, or spending time with is wife, Catholic Recording artist Jaime Thietten.