quod pro nobis traditum est

Sunday, June 24, 2007

In Holiness and Righteousness

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist 24 June 2007
In Holiness and Righteousness Before Him Luke 1:57-80

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

From birth we are lost in our sin. We spend our days fleeing from God and His mercy. Except for the grace of God we would not even be here this morning. He protects us with His holy angel and guides us by His Spirit and we are gathered on this day in Holy Communion with Him and with all the saints in heaven. This is possible in that here we are blessed with His presence and forgiveness. This is why the Church does not take a vacation during the summer and why the early Church was open for the hearing of the Word and prayer on a daily basis. The Divine Office of Matins, which is a daily prayer of the Church, includes the song of Zechariah that we heard this morning in the Gospel reading. Everything is dependent on God's grace and promise. As He commanded His people to keep the Sabbath holy so He also keeps His promise to us. Zechariah's mouth was opened to speak of God's visitation and promise that He could see coming following the birth of John. So He speaks of salvation being fulfilled that was spoken of from the beginning by the holy prophets:
To perform the mercy promised to our fathers
And to remember His holy covenant,
The oath which He swore to our father Abraham:
To grant us that we,
Being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve Him without fear,
In holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.

When John was still in the womb he leapt for joy upon hearing of the Lord's visitation to the blessed virgin Mary. Now John is in the temple and it is the eighth day, the day after the Sabbath (Bede), a sign of God's covenant promise that comes to fruit in the resurrection of Jesus. This is our Baptism - our washing away of sins and our resurrection from the dead. He is called John because this means "the grace of God" or "in whom there is grace." (Bede) By grace Elizabeth gave birth to John and his parents brought him to be circumcised. By grace Zechariah sees what is happening and is able to speak of the blessings of the Lord who guides our feet into the way of peace. John is the prophet of the Highest, the one who prepares the way of the Lord. These too are the men called and ordained to speak the Lord's Word as pastors so that His people may know their salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.

On the Nativity of St. John the Baptist we are reminded of the Lord's mercy promised to our fathers and the oath God made to our father Abraham. John's birth preceded that of our Lord. He prepared the way of the Lord by preaching repentance and the forgiveness of sins. John had to decrease so that the Lord would increase. At John's baptism of Jesus, God, the Holy Trinity, was revealed. Jesus has visited and redeemed us, paying the cost of our sins and of the sins of the whole world with his blood shed on the cross. He is risen and ascended and sits on high just as He continues to meet us here on earth where He reigns in grace. By His grace our feet are guided to His house once again this morning. Before John and before Abraham, He Is and He now visits us here to guide our feet to the altar to receive His redemption and peace.
Blessed is the Lord God of Israel,
For He has visited and redeemed His people.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


William Weedon said...

Short, sweet, and beautiful. I think we have another St. Peter Chrysologus among us!

Fr. Timothy D. May, S.S.P. said...

The brief homilies are due to the liturgy being bilingual during the summer months. The length of the service is somewhat beyond the norm so there are always adjustments here and there. On a day like the Nativity of St. John the Baptist there is so much homiletical material to mine and I would prefer to say more. Also, you have now graced me with another church father to familiarize myself with (together with Hippolytus whom you introduced to me a while back on another forum). Thank you!