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Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: December 15, 2019
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily during the Mass in which John Hoelzeman signed a letter of intent to become a seminarian for the Diocese of Little Rock at Sacred Heart Church in Morrilton on Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019.
Whenever I ask new immigrants why they chose Arkansas, the answer is usually: "I knew someone who was already in Arkansas with whom I could stay temporarily, who would help me find a job" — someone who had already "prepared the way."
That’s why we have the largest Marshall Islander community anywhere in the United States, in Springdale, Ark., of all places! And so many Salvadorans in Rogers and Vietnamese in Fort Smith. Years ago some brave soul from that specific place settled in this specific place and, perhaps unknowingly, prepared the way for all the rest.
One hundred years ago it was Germans and Swiss who settled here in Morrilton, Poles in Marché, Slovaks in Slovak and Italians in Center Ridge. People tend to go where someone else has already prepared the way.
If some of you parents look back over the sacrifices you have made and begin to feel uncertain about all you have done because you aren’t yet seeing the results you had hoped for in the lives of your children, you would be wise to learn from John the Baptist.
And that was John the Baptist’s role in God’s plan for our salvation, except that he prepared the way to a spiritual destination, not to another place where those who followed him might find material prosperity — quite the contrary … John the Baptist’s life was one of poverty! Rather, he led people to a place in the heart where they would prosper spiritually.
Just like our immigrant ancestors who made sacrifices that we might prosper materially, John the Baptist made great sacrifices to pave the way spiritually so that those who followed would be prepared to benefit from the salvation that would soon be available to them in Jesus.
By the time of today’s Gospel, John the Baptist is already in prison where he will die. Looking back over all the sacrifices he has made he begins to feel uncertain about all he has done because he wasn’t yet seeing the results he had hoped for. Was Jesus "really the one" for whose coming John had dedicated his life’s work or "should we look for another?"
Jesus answers by directing John’s attention to the visible results of his own ministry: "the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the poor have the Good News proclaimed to them." These signs prove that in Jesus the Messianic Age has dawned and John should take comfort in knowing that his sacrifices were necessary to fulfill Scripture and thus fulfill his part in God’s plan for our salvation: "Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you" — ahead of the Messiah — "he will prepare your way before you."
And isn’t that — in some measure — our role too? If some of you parents look back over the sacrifices you have made and begin to feel uncertain about all you have done because you aren’t yet seeing the results you had hoped for in the lives of your children, you would be wise to learn from John the Baptist.
He never did live to see the full effects of his efforts — he died at the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry — but like him, you too can take comfort if you know that you have done all in your power to fulfill your role in God’s plan for you and your family, because that is all that God asks of any of us. The actual results are often out of our control, but they’re not out of God’s control! All God asks is that we be faithful ... that we do our best like John the Baptist did and then leave the rest in the hands of God.
And of course this work of “preparing the way of the Lord” is certainly the role especially of priests and in this Mass we have the joy of John Holzeman, one of your own, signing his letter of intent to pursue a possible vocation to the priesthood starting next semester.
I would like to invite him to come forward now, accompanied by his parents. This is an important moment in John’s journey with the Lord and we are here to support him, prepare the way for him to respond to the call of the Lord in his life.