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제목 St John the Baptist Crying in the Desert -3rd Sun.of Advent
작성자 관리자 작성일 2015-12-15



St John the Baptist Crying in the Desert - 3rd Sun, of Advent(2015-12-13)


My dear Brethren,
Our Lord Jesus Christ told us that “there is not a greater prophet that John the Baptist” (Lk. 7:28) and again, he is “more than a prophet” (Mt. 11:9). Who is he? Our Lord Jesus Christ says of him: “this is he of whom it is written [by the Prophet Malachy]: Behold I send my angel before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee” (Mt. 11:10). Yet St John is so humble that he says of himself: “I am not the Christ… I am not Elias… I am not a prophet” (Jn. 1:20-21). “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Isaias” (Jn. 1:23). His mission was the immediate preparation of the people so that they would receive Christ. And He had the special grace to point Him out and to baptise Him.

The coming of the Saviour had been announced more than 4000 years before, already when God said to the serpent: “I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel” (Gen. 3:15). The head of the serpent shall be crushed by the woman and her seed.


Then from time to time, God sent prophets in order not to let mankind sink into sin, but rather to renew the faith in the Saviour to come. This was particularly true in the preparation of the Hebrew people from whom He would come, preparing in a very special way those great saints: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, then later Moses through whom God gave the Law, to remind people of the natural moral law and to announce the Christ through the ceremonial laws.


Now since that people was very rebellious, God sent further prophets to recall them on the path of fidelity and threaten them of punishments if they continued in their sins. Because of these sins, they were sent into exile in Babylon but then later brought back from exile: after the last prophets at the time of the return from exile, there had been no more prophet and the people lived close to 400 years in the expectation of The One that had been so much announced, and that would be their Saviour.

And then St John was born: it was a miracle because his mother was barren and both his parents were far advanced in years. The people had said: “What do you think shall this child be? For the hand of the Lord was with him” (Lk. 1:66). When still very young, St John retired into the desert, and there he was instructed by the Holy Ghost. He was living a life of penance: he “had his garment of camels' hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins: and his meat was locusts and wild honey” (Mt. 3:4), spending all his time in prayer.


The people started to notice him and said: there is a man of God in the wilderness! They came to him, and he preached in a very strong way: “Do penance: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt. 3:2). “Ye brood of vipers, who hath shewed you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruit worthy of penance. And think not to say within yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’. For I tell you that God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham. For now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that doth not yield good fruit shall be cut down, and cast into the fire” (Mt. 3:7-10)

This call to penance is most necessary today: we need to return to Christ. And those who have never known Him do really need to come to Him, because without Christ no one can ever be saved: “Neither is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Penance is a necessary preparation in order to be able to receive our Lord Jesus Christ: one cannot see light if he has his head buried in the sand, in the love of earthly things, in sin. There is no mercy without penance: the Mercy of God leads us to do penance for our sins. St John the Baptist, in order to prepare the ways of the Lord and to make our path straight, preached penance: may we listen to him and do real penance for our sins.

Many were baptised by him by a baptism of penance, but the Pharisees rejected him. Yet St John’s mission was much higher than just preaching penance. His main mission was to announce that Christ was already there, in their midst (since Jesus was just six months younger than John), and then to point him out to them. “And as the people were of opinion, and all were thinking in their hearts of John, that perhaps he might be the Christ; John answered, saying unto all: I indeed baptize you with water; but there shall come one mightier that I, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to loose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: whose fan is in his hand, and he will purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his barn; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Lk. 3:15-17). Note how this great saint did not fear to preach about hell.
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The people esteemed John so high above them, yet John himself testified that Christ is so high above him that he is not worthy to loose the latchet of his shoes. So who is our Lord Jesus Christ? “John saw Jesus coming to him, and he saith: Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who taketh away the sin of the world. This is he, of whom I said: After me there cometh a man, who is preferred before me: because he was before me. And I knew him not, but that he may be made manifest in Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. And John gave testimony, saying: I saw the Spirit coming down, as a dove from heaven, and he remained upon him. And I knew him not; but he who sent me to baptize with water, said to me: He upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining upon him, he it is that baptiseth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and I gave testimony, that this is the Son of God” (Jn. 1:29-34)

This is the great testimony of John the Baptist, recorded to us by St John the Apostle who was himself a disciple of St John the Baptist: he is an immediate witness of the words he recorded in the Gospel. He could never forget them, so deep they were, so important they were: Jesus is “the Lamb of God”; Jesus is “the Son of God”: true man, true God, the one who “takes away the sins of the world”, Saviour of the world! Let us appreciate these words! The true God, the Almighty Creator of Heaven and earth is a marvellously caring God, Who so cares about men, loves men so much that He sent His only-begotten Son: “God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting” (Jn. 3:16). “He came unto his own” (Jn. 1:11). Jesus is true God, Jesus is the Creator of Heaven and earth (“by Him all things were made, and without Him nothing was made” Jn. 1:3), Jesus is the Infinite Goodness itself! We need this faith in the Divinity of Christ: Jesus is “God of God, Light of Light, true God of the true God” (Creed), He is “the Truth and the Life” (Jn. 14:6), He “is the brightness of eternal light, and the unspotted mirror of God's majesty, and the image of his goodness” (Wis. 7:26) as was said in the Old Testament, and St Paul says the same thing: Jesus is “the brightness of his glory, and the figure of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3)

Now if the Son of God came down on earth, this is most important for the whole mankind! No man is allowed to ignore Him, much less to despise Him. On the contrary, we ought all to learn from Him, to receive Him in our head by faith, in our heart by love, in our hands by good works. Jesus must be everything for us, He is the very reason of our life, the ultimate goal of our life is to see Him face to face in Heaven.

And what did the Son of God come to do on earth? “To take away the sins of the world”, “to save his people from their sins” had said the Angel to St Joseph. He is the Saviour; He is the remedy to all our human ills, the greatest of which is sin; He is the solution to all our problems; He is the Divine Physician of our souls.


Let us all come to Him, and open to Him our heart, accusing our sins, confessing our sins, to obtain mercy from Him, to obtain His grace by which our soul will be healed from sin. Where there was selfishness and hatred, He will put charity; where there was resentment, He will put forgiveness; where there was pride, He will put humility; where there was lust, He will put purity; where there was anger and violence, He will put meekness; where there was greed and theft, He will put almsgiving; where there was drunkenness, He will put sobriety; where there was darkness, He will bring His Light; where there was despair, He will put hope; where there was death, He will bring everlasting Life!

And how did the Son of God achieve all this? By offering His own self on the altar of the Cross as The Lamb of God! “This is the Lamb of God”, what a marvellous definition of our Lord Jesus Christ! He is true God indeed, the Son of God, but He came down on earth “to humble Himself, making himself obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross” (Phil. 2:8); He thus became the Lamb of God, figured and announced by all these pascal lambs offered every at Easter, but also by the daily offering of sacrifices in the Old Testament temple. But His offering of the perfect Sacrifice of the Cross, He put an end to all these figures, that now in the New and everlasting Testament are replaced by this perfect offering of the Sacrifice of the Lamb on the Altar at Mass.

“The Lamb of God!” Now this is most marvellous: that the Son of God takes our place, the place of us sinners, and pays for our sins on the Cross: He who is innocence itself, pays for us who are guilty, to save us from our sins! This is how much God loves us; this is how much God hates sin. Hence there is no hesitation: we must absolutely put an end to our sins; we must be faithful to Him for ever, and we can do so by His grace, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Lamb of God!
 
See how the message of St John the Baptist is most important for the whole world! But He says more: here is a very beautiful and intimate confidence He made to His disciples, that reveal the very heart of St John the Baptist: the disciples of John the Baptist “came to John, and said to him: Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond the Jordan, to whom thou gavest testimony, behold he baptizeth, and all men come to him.


John answered, and said: A man cannot receive any thing, unless it be given him from heaven. You yourselves do bear me witness, that I said, I am not Christ, but that I am sent before him. He that hath the bride, is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, who standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth with joy because of the bridegroom's voice. This my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease. He that cometh from above, is above all. He that is of the earth, of the earth he is, and of the earth he speaketh. He that cometh from heaven, is above all. And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth: and no man receiveth his testimony. He that hath received his testimony, hath set to his seal that God is true. For he whom God hath sent, speaketh the words of God: for God doth not give the Spirit by measure. The Father loveth the Son: and he hath given all things into his hand. He that believeth in the Son, hath life everlasting; but he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (Jn. 3:26-36).

These disciples of St John thought they were loyal to John by staying with him; but he explained to them how wrong they were: St John would be much happier if his disciples would all go and listen to Jesus. Indeed “he who has the bride is the groom”: the bride is the Church, the congregation of the faithful; the bridegroom is Christ, the Saviour; as for St John, he is the “friend of the bridegroom”, the friend of Jesus, and he rejoices, because the Saviour has come and has started His mission to save: his joy is full.


St John’s humility is in these words: “He [=Jesus] must increase and I must decrease”. Their very death manifested that: Jesus was lifted up on the Cross: He increased; St John was decapitated, he decreased. And then St John continues by giving again testimony to our Lord Jesus Christ, to His Divinity: “The Father loves the Son, and He has given all things into his hands”; the Father has communicated ALL to His Son, His own Divinity!


And St John draws the conclusion for us: we must believe in the Son: “He that believeth in the Son, hath life everlasting; but he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (Jn. 3:36). My dear brethren, let us ask from St John the Baptist his great faith in the Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, his great love for our Lord Jesus Christ, that we may live entirely for Him, ready to give our life for Him as St John has done. Let us ask also for his zeal to make Jesus known: it would be good if each one of you would bring one more person for Christmas: that would be a very nice gift to the Child Jesus!

Every time we come to Mass, we hear the words of St John, which the priest says before communion: “Behold the Lamb of God! Behold He who takes away the sins of the world!” Let us remember this great prophet, the greatest of all, and let us ask for His faith in the Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, the Son of God and the Lamb of God, Priest and Victim! This is the same Jesus who walked on the path of Galilea, Whom John baptised in the Jordan, Who died on the Cross, Who rose again and Who is really present in the Holy Eucharist under the appearances of bread and wine.


This is the same Jesus, rich unto all who invoke him. He feeds us with His own self, so that we may live by Him: “By this hath the charity of God appeared towards us, because God hath sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we may live by him” (1 Jn. 4:9). That He may live in us: “I live, now not I; but Christ liveth in me” (Gal. 2:20). He comes as the bridegroom of our soul: may we live entirely for Him, obedient to Him, as a good bride “subject to her husband as the Church is subject to Christ” (Eph. 5:24).
 
St John the Baptist had been sanctified in the womb of his mother when the Blessed Virgin Mary had saluted her at the Visitation. It is through Mary that St John received so many graces. It is also through Mary that we shall be prepared for Christmas: how did she prepare for the birth of the Saviour? What were her thoughts in these last weeks before the birth of Jesus? What Faith, what love she already had for the Child she was carrying in her womb! What desire to see Him! What attention to please Him and to serve Him faithfully in all things! What eagerness to prepare everything so that Jesus be welcome worthily!


Let us not prepare Christmas in a worldly way, with all this attention to shopping, but rather prepare our souls to see the Child Jesus, to see the “expectation of the Nations” (Gen. 49:10), to see The Emmanuel, God with us! May we prepare ourselves with penance, as St John preached and as this time of Advent is a time of penance, especially the third week with the ember days!

At the example of St John the Baptist and of the Blessed Virgin Mary, may we live entirely for our Lord Jesus Christ, prepare ourselves worthily to receive Him, especially in the most Blessed Sacrament! Amen.

 Fr. F. Laisney (sspxasia)