Solemnity of the Nativity Saint John the Baptist

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2014/06/27 at 12:00 AM
  • In the 11th chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew, our Lord tells us that, “of those born of woman, none is greater than John the Baptist.” Today we celebrate the birth of this greatest man to walk the earth, save our Lord Himself.
  • Holy Mother Church has taken to heart our Lord’s words regarding St. John’s greatness, and we see this reflected most especially in our liturgical life.
  • For example, in the Litany of the Saints, which is a great prayer of supplication used to invoke the heavenly aid of the Holy Trinity, our Lady, the angels & the saints, St. John the Baptist is the first saint listed after our Lady and the angels.
  • His placement at the beginning of the litany – even before the beloved St. Joseph or St. Peter or St. Paul – tells us a lot about how much the Church reveres this important saint.
  • Moreover, while most saints have only one feast day in the liturgical calendar, St. John the Baptist (along with St. Joseph, St. Peter, St. Paul, and Our Lady) belongs to a select group of saints who have multiple feast days – again attesting to his importance in the life of the Church.
  • Furthermore, when we commemorate the feast day of a saint, we generally honor the day the saint died. But today we are commemorating the birth of St. John the Baptist.
  • In fact, outside of Jesus Himself and the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. John the Baptist is the only saint whose birth is celebrated during the liturgical year.
  • We celebrate these three particular births because the conception of each of these persons was miraculous, and because each of these people plays a very particular role in salvation history.
  • We get a sense that St. John was destined for greatness by the manner of his conception and his birth, detailed for us in the Gospel of Luke, as well as by the other readings we hear today.
  • Historically, the Church has always considered John as the last and greatest of the prophets. John represents the climax of the long tradition of Jewish prophets looking forward to the coming of the Messiah.
  • As such, John the Baptist is himself the bridge between the Old and New Testaments. Representative of the past, St. John ushers in a new era, and the prophesies of men like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel all culminate in the prophesies of the Baptist.
  • We know that St. John the Baptist is the humble yet courageous herald of Our Lord. It is he who announces the actual coming of the Messiah. He points out to us that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, and he preaches a baptism of repentance.
  • Yet what is most remarkable about John the Baptist is not that he was obedient to our Lord’s will in announcing the coming of the Messiah – even in the womb.
  • What is most remarkable about John is that despite his lofty calling and placement in salvation history, he remained humble, simple, and steadfast throughout his life.
  • Realizing that he was not to be the main character in the great drama that is our salvation history, but merely the forerunner of the Savior, John the Baptist lived humbly in an out-of- the-way place: a desert.
  • He didn’t bank on the renown that surely came to him because of the miraculous events surrounding his conception and birth. Rather, John preferred poverty, wearing camel-skin clothing and eating only locusts and honey.
  • John the Baptist had a keen eye for truth, which is what enabled him to see his cousin for what He truly was: the Messiah. And John was obedient to his Messiah cousin when he asked to be baptized, despite his feelings of unworthiness in the face of such holiness.
  • Moreover, John bravely spoke the truth, rebuking Herod for marrying the wife of his brother, even though in the end it very literally cost him his head.
  • Decades before St. Paul preached about the need for the old man of sin within us to die so that Christ might live within us (cf. 2 Cor 5:17 & Gal 2:20), St. John knew that he must decrease so that Christ can increase (cf. John 3:30).
  • In August we will celebrate the beheading of John the Baptist. But his real death was his death to self, his radical detachment from himself. It is this death to self that we see reflected in the humble manner of his life that makes him so great.
  • Indeed it was John’s life of austerity that enabled him to be so detached. His life of self- denial, simplicity, and penance was what made him capable of dying to himself so that Christ could live within him. In this there is a lesson for us all!
  • St. John was not concerned about what others thought; he wasn’t concerned for himself at all. John’s only concern was that Christ be made known, and that he served Jesus well, with integrity and honor. He thought only of Jesus and not of himself.
  • Humility, simplicity of life, courage and honesty were the spiritual tools that made it possible for St. John to live a life of radical holiness. And if we are serious about becoming holy, they can work for us too!
  • Indeed, St. John’s life reminds us that there are tremendous spiritual blessings to living life simply. He also reminds us of the need to do penance regularly, to beg for forgiveness for our sins, to speak the truth always, and to call others to repentance.
  • Every time we deny ourselves something we desire, we further our own personal process of dying to self. Every time we speak the truth, especially when people don’t want to hear it, we further the process of dying to self. Every time we do some charitable act, especially one requiring a generous sacrifice, we further the process of dying to self.
  • While we may not be called to the same level of austerity as St. John, is it possible that if we endeavored to simplify our lives: living in simpler homes, driving simpler cars, wearing simpler clothes, and eating simpler foods, that we might die to ourselves in such a way that Christ might live more fully within us? Of course!
  • The question is whether or not we’re willing to simplify our lives!
  • My dear friends, the Church today honors one of her greatest saints: St. John the Baptist, thehumble yet courageous herald of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
  • Let us pray that through St. John’s intercession, we too may learn to die to self throughpenance and simplicity. May we never be afraid of the truth, even if it costs us our heads, as it did him.
  • May we imitate both his courage and his humility, and in so doing, may we grow ever moreinto the likeness of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
  • 24 June 2012

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

Homilies from June 17, 2012 onward have audio .
To enable the audio, please go directly to Fr. Reid’s homily homilies and select the matching date.

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