Posted by: Fr Chris | June 24, 2019

Saint John the Baptist and Today

We celebrate today the birth of the last of the prophets, relative of the Lord and forerunner of  Christ, John the Baptist.

Nativity of Saint John the Baptist - Wikipedia

Bede the Venerable tells us that In both the scriptures and in the Church’s liturgy John the Baptizer is referred to as an angel, prophet, apostle, hermit and martyr, for these terms well describe his life work. John, like the angels, was sent from God to be the messenger of the Lord. His message was that of all of the prophets who came before him: repent and return to God – but this time, because the messiah of God is at hand. Like the apostles who followed him and then went to join Christ, John pointed to Jesus and proclaimed him as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” He prepared for his ministry as a hermit in the desert, living a life of prayer, fasting and continence. And, like all those who dare to proclaim the truth, he suffered a martyr’s death in fidelity to the Word of God.

The angel who came to Zechariah bore witness to the graces about which he had come to give the good news—not only by the power of the words which he brought forward but also by the point in time and the location of the place in which he appeared.

He appeared at the time when the priest was making an offering, to express the fact that he was proclaiming the coming of the true and eternal High Priest, who would be the true sacrificial offering for the salvation of the world.

He stood beside the altar of incense to teach that he had come as the herald of a new covenant. There were two altars in the temple, which expressed the two covenants in the church. The first, the altar of burnt offerings, which was covered with bronze and was situated in front of the doors of the temple.  Then there was the altar of incense, which was covered with gold and set near the entrance of the Holy of Holies, and was used to burn fragrant spices and incense. This signified the interior life with God.

I can relate! | My Destiny Sharing Hope

Zechariah as a priest should have known better that when an angel of God comes with a message, you better believe the message, There are a bunch of stories from the Old Testament of either elderly or infertile women conceiving due to God’s mercy: Sarah, , Abimelech’s wife, Rebecca, Rachel, the mother of Sampson, Hannah, the Shunamite woman who helped Saint Elijah the prophet. Elizabeth would not be the first. It demonstrates the exquisite holiness of Our Lady and her intimate closeness to God, as she believed right away, just asking the logical question, how?

The name John means “God is gracious, or the grace of the Lord” or “in whom there is grace.” He received a special grace beyond other saints, that of being Christ’s precursor. He came to proclaim a previously unheard of grace to the world, that  the Messiah was coming, a figure of such awesome power that John was not worthy to take care of His shoes, the lowest position of a slave in a Roman household. Therefore he who was full of grace himself and who brought the good news of God’s grace to the rest of humankind expressed even by his name a proclamation of grace. It was rightly foretold that there was to be cause for exultation for many persons at his birth, since it was through him that the Author of their rebirth as children of God was manifested to the world.

Christ Episcopal Church, Albertville: The Visitation

There is no doubt that this promise of the angel came true. Before he was born—still in his mother’s womb—St. John depicted the grace of the reception of the Spirit. Although neither his father nor his mother had performed any miracles previously, he, leaping in his mother’s womb, proclaimed the coming of the Lord. When Our Lady came to Elizabeth, the latter said, “For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy.” For the Fathers, this leap is not only the older baby acknowledging the presence of the Son of the Most High and leaping for joy but also worshipping the Infant Christ in Mary’s womb.

7 best Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth images on Pinterest | Virgin mary, Religious art and ...

The big icon of St John on the icon- screen in our church shows him in camel’s hair, with long hair, the symbols of a prophet, pointing to the Infant Christ Child on the diskos, affirming the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. He is surrounded by Desert Fathers and Mothers and healing saints – He is the patron saint against epilepsy and migraines, as well as the patron of places from Macao in China to Quebec to multiple cities in Europe. Above all, though, he is the patron saint of conversion and of monasticism, of those who leave the world to follow God in a more intimate way, as he did, going out into the literal desert or creating a desert place inside a city in a monastery. In his day, the townspeople went out of the comfortable walls to hear him preach along the banks of the Jordan River and in the desert land, feeling the power of his call to radical conversion and to follow God more closely. In fact John is the patron saint of converts. We all need to convert though – to be renewed in our own personal covenants with Jesus Christ and His Church. We live in a time in which the name of the Church is dragged through the mud every week by comedians, with bishops who failed to protect their people, even their seminarians, from predators. We  live in a time where people say, all the Church talks about is sex, when really it is western society that is fixated on creating ever new categories of people based on sexuality, and that alone. John stood as a voice of truth in a royal court that did not want to hear him, though even Herod Antipas found his words attractive, as we hear in the gospel on August 29.

Truth is never popular – there are always people in power or who hold posts of influence in a culture who do not want to hear the truth. Today is no different. Saint John’s Day always is near the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, and bonfires are lit in celebration both of the natural light and the light his preaching brought.

OT Book 39 – Malachi | Bob's boy's Christianity blog

We are called, as baptized members of the Body of Christ, to honor the authentic truth of the Church’s teaching, and to believe it. It can be done – every generation needs renewal and needs to be brought back to its senses from something that seems more attractive than God’s grace and His teaching. It is up to us to follow through, and ask St. John tonight to inspire our own conversions, our own internal healings, so that we can bring the light of faith into the darkness.

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