Lecture Examines Role of John the Baptist as Model for Christians Today


Using art through the centuries, Fr. Leo J. O'Donovan illustrated the role of John the Baptist as the herald of Jesus, and how he continues to be an example Christians can follow, in a lecture Monday, December 2, at Romita Auditorium.

Fr. Leo, president emeritus and professor of theology at Georgetown University and a trustee of The College of New Rochelle, "is truly a treasure to the College," said Tiffani Blake, special assistant to President Judith Huntington for Mission and Board Relations. "We admire his wisdom that he has so generously shared with us over the years."

"Advent is a time of reflection and preparation for the coming of Jesus and what a wonderful way to celebrate this highlight of the liturgical year," Blake said.

Fr. Leo began by showing works of art that show John the Baptist and Jesus as children, a relationship that the Bible tells us nothing about, although the Gospel of Luke says they are second cousins. It's such a compelling relationship, Fr. Leo said, that "artists are driven to invent intimate, tender scenes."

This imagery, Fr. Leo said, shouldn't be criticized or discarded, but it should remind us that "the Biblical material is already very strong."

His baptism of Jesus serves to portray Jesus "as one who is pleasing to his father, and one to whom we should listen."

John the Baptist's arrest and execution for criticizing Herod, Fr. Leo said, anticipates the suffering of Jesus.

Perhaps the most important lesson from John's life comes from this time, O'Donovan said, when he experiences doubt according to the later chapters of the gospels of Luke and Matthew. From prison, he sends messages to Jesus asking, "Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?" It's something we rarely consider when we think of him baptizing Jesus, pointing him out as the Lamb of God, Fr. Leo said.

"We're often not sure," Fr. Leo said. "He's an inspiration for our pointing people towards Christ. He also is a patron of each of us when we are in doubt, and goes to his death presumably, with whatever uncertainty, nevertheless having witnessed to Jesus."

"Which is, isn't it, what we all hope to do?"