On this day, the Church in her wisdom commemorates the birth of St. John the Baptist. He is one of only three whose births the liturgy celebrates; the others are of course, Jesus and Mary. And the reason for celebrating their births, as you know, is that these three are the only ones since Adam and Eve’s transgression to be born free from original sin. All of us are born in sin, and few indeed preserve their baptismal purity. This inconvenient truth is one of many depicted in the life and death of St. John the Baptist.
In recalling to us St. John’s birth, the Church implicitly emphasises original sin and baptism.
- John was freed from original sin in his mother’s womb by Jesus, before either were born, through the Blessed Virgin Mary. This was the first miracle worked by our Lord Jesus Christ and was performed through the mediation of His Immaculate Mother.
- Scripture tells us that John baptised in penance, thus we are called to consider the necessity of repentance and the need for baptism to free each of us from original sin.
Regarding St. John’s life and death, in Matthew we read this description:
John had his garment of camels’ hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins: and his meat was locusts and wild honey. And his words: “Do penance: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. …And seeing many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them: Ye brood of vipers, who hath shewed you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruit worthy of penance …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. I indeed baptize you in the water unto penance, but He that shall come after me, is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear; He shall baptize you in the Holy Ghost and fire. Whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly cleanse His floor and gather His wheat into the barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Now what are we told of his end? Again, Matthew tells us:
“For Herod had apprehended John and bound him, and put him into prison, because of Herodias, his brother’ s wife. For John said to him: It is not lawful for thee to have her. And having a mind to put him to death, he feared the people: because they esteemed him as a prophet. But on Herod’ s birthday, the daughter of Herodias danced before them: and pleased Herod. Whereupon he promised with an oath, to give her whatsoever she would ask of him. But she being instructed before by her mother, said: Give me here in a dish the head of John the Baptist. And the king was struck sad: yet because of his oath, and for them that sat with him at table, he commanded it to be given. And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison. And his head was brought in a dish: and it was given to the damsel, and she brought it to her mother.”
The passages above point us to consider the gravity of sin and its dire consequences. Those who do not bear good fruit will be “cast into the fire”, indeed, into “unquenchable fire”, Now, this is one message you shall not hear from this poor, unfortunate pope, who jovially urges all to continue on in lives of sin. In fact, he assures us, it is the job of the shepherds to accompany us in our sins! Thus we have the delightful picture foretold by Sister Lucia of the blind leading the blind, all of them wandering right on down to the unquenchable fire, regardless of their denials of this unpleasant fact.
Matthew tells us of Herod and his “wife” Herodias and her daughter Salome. Although they were a scandal in their time, they would be simply tabloid fodder today and many would be eager to emulate them, as they imitate today’s Kardashian trash. For people who deny the truth of Christ, are drawn to the base and vulgar; as is our pontiff. Pope Francis honors “celebrities” who mock Christ and His Church, such as Patti Smith (whose ‘partner’ Robert Mapplethorpe was the “artist” most noted for displaying a crucified Christ in a jar of urine), Salma Hayek (notable for her role in the blasphemous anti-Catholic film ‘Dogma’) and Emma Bonino (influential abortionist who proudly claims the murder of thousands of preborn infants). When has Pope Francis honored for instance, Blessed Jacinta Marto, or Sister Lucia? Perhaps they should have blasphemed Christ or His Mother?
Herod was drawn to St. John the Baptist but in the end, he served his own gods, lust for his brother’s wife and her sensuous daughter, and regard for his oath to her before his friends. And so John was beheaded, the precursor leading the way before the crucifixion of His Savior.
Today, we remember the miraculous baptism of John, wrought by the Divine Infant through His most Blessed Mother, and honor his witness to the truth, that brought him the palm of martyrhood and the glory of eternal life with his Savior. And still his words echo:
“Do penance: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand … Every tree therefore that doth not yield good fruit, shall be cut down, and cast into the fire. … He that shall come after me, is mightier than I, … Whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly cleanse His floor and gather His wheat into the barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.”
We close with the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Apocalypse:
“Have in mind therefore in what manner thou hast received and heard: and observe, and do penance. If then thou shalt not watch, I will come to thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know at what hour I will come to thee.” (Apoc. 3,3).
There has never been a better time to Pray the Rosary and confound the devil!
† Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Thy kingdom come!
† Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death.
† St. Joseph, protect us, protect our families.
† St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.
Please pray for the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary!
~ by evensong for love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Vouchsafe that I may praise thee, O Sacred Virgin! Give me strength against thine enemies!