The Beheading of John the Baptizer and the Path to Freedom
John the Baptizer was a man of Joy because he was a man of true humility!
He was a man who understood that life wasn't all about him. He emptied himself willingly and was thus able to reveal Jesus to others. He was the "best man" at the wedding. His humility opened a space within him for true joy to take root and set him free! John is a sign of contradiction for this age, drunk on self worship and lost in narcissistic self absorption. He points to the path to true freedom, living a lifestyle of self emptying." He must increase and I must decrease". This leads to ongoing conversion; becoming a new creation. (2 Cor. 5:17) The Baptizer prepared the way to freedom for every one of us.
The Beheading of John the Baptizer
CHESAPEAKE, VA. (Catholic Online) - On June 24, the Western Church celebrates the Birth of John the Baptizer. On August 29, we commemorate his death by beheading. Other than the Lord Himself and His Blessed Mother, Mary, John is the only Saint for whom we celebrate both his birth and his death. In a beautiful excerpt from a sermon of St. Augustine on John the Baptizer, the great Bishop of Hippo calls us to pause and reflect on why:
"The Church observes the birth of John as in some way sacred; and you will not find any other of the great men of old whose birth we celebrate officially. We celebrate John's, as we celebrate Christ's. This point cannot be passed over in silence, and if I may not perhaps be able to explain it in the way that such an important matter deserves, it is still worth thinking about it a little more deeply and fruitfully than usual."
Our image of John is as the austere ascetic, the odd fellow who lived in the desert eating an odd diet thundering to Israel about repentance. We forget the joy that was associated with his birth and the happiness which accompanied his prophetic life and vocation. He always pointed the way to Jesus. So must we in our own age. When we begin to really understand this we will also comprehend the freedom he experienced in both life and death. He simply said yes to who he was born to be and continually said yes to who he was called to become. He is an example for each one of us.He did indeed prepare the way for each one of us.
When Our Lady went to visit her kinswoman Elizabeth - she carrying the Incarnate Word and Elizabeth carrying John - the Gospel tells us: "When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said:"Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
"And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled." And Mary said: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior." (Luke 1: 41-47)
Living in the first home of the whole human race, his mother's womb, this last Prophet of the Old Testament and First Prophet of the New responded to the arrival of Jesus the Savior with a dance of Joy. St. John the great theologian records in his Gospel where John the Baptizer explained the reason for his joy, "The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease." (John 1:29 - 30) John the Baptizer was a man of Joy because he was a man of true humility!
He was a man who understood that life wasn't all about him. He emptied himself willingly and was thus able to reveal Jesus to others. He was the "best man" at the wedding. His humility opened a space within him for true joy to take root and set him free! John is a sign of contradiction for this age, drunk on self worship and lost in narcissistic self absorption. He points to the path to true freedom, living a lifestyle of self emptying." He must increase and I must decrease". This leads to ongoing conversion; becoming a new creation. (2 Cor. 5:17)
John is a man to be imitated in both life and death. We learn from him to live our lives as joyful penitents; ever aware of our utter dependency on God's grace. It is sin which leads us into slavery and takes away our joy. Only by being freed from its entanglement can we become happy. (See, Romans 6: 6, 7 and Gal. 5:1) John still points to Jesus, in both his birth and his martyr's death. That is why we celebrate both.
Two millennia after his illustrious mission as the harbinger of Christ, we readily accept, as we should, his prophetic role in the revelation of God's plan of salvation and the advent of the Gospel. Yet, how might we have seen John if we had been his contemporaries? Would we have so readily accepted him, or might we have rejected him as a fanatic or extremist?
Let's face it: John was peculiar. He dressed like a cave man, ate insects and railed at politicians for their fornication and marital infidelity.He sequestered himself in the desert where he tirelessly initiated converts fleeing the sinful pollution of the cities.He proclaimed the end if the people failed to repent and he used vivid and mystical imagery.In the popular "media" of the day, he was portrayed as a nut and dangerous fanatic.
By standing apart, boldly calling out evil doers without regard to their prestige or rank, by challenging his own co-religionists, John made himself terribly unpopular.At the end, he publicly and relentlessly criticized the personal behavior of the ...
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