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None Greater Than John the Baptist

None Greater Than John the Baptist June 24, 2021

None Greater Than John
None Greater Than John. “Saint John the Baptist, Notre-Dame de Paris.” Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain.

 

Jesus said: None greater than John the Baptist has
arisen among those born of women.
[Mt. 11:11]

 

For the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, June 24: Luke 1:57-66,80.

 

From the time of John’s birth his father speaks to him of the tender mercy of our God.

And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give his people knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God
by which the daybreak from on high will visit us
to shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.
[Lk. 1:76-79]

How did John grow up into a man who punished his own body and threatened people with hellfire?

And what did John do that God the Son said None greater than John the Baptist has arisen among those born of women?

We don’t know for certain when John had his first face-to-face meeting with the Incarnate Mercy of God.

The first time we see them meet face to face, John is baptizing crowds of sinners in the Jordan River, and Jesus is among them.

John looks into the crowd, sees Jesus and says aloud: Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

Right there in that cry of recognition and that choice of words is a clue for reconciling John’s prophetic penances with the tender mercy of his God.

We might like to think that God’s mercy simply consists in God saying, “Forget it ever happened— I’ve wiped it off the face of history.”

Instead, God has chosen to do infinitely much more than that.

He became a real man of real human flesh and blood.

Behold, the Lamb of God whose flesh and blood will be sacrifice to atone for sin and pay for mercy.

God’s mercy in Christ is not the mere cancellation of a debt.

God’s mercy in Christ consists in God paying the price for his own mercy— paying off the debt of sin with his own flesh and blood.

However, his flesh and blood belong to our humanity.

In Christ, our nature, bodies, flesh and blood have become the place, the event and the price of God’s mercy.

We are not spectators, but participants.

Christ’s human flesh and blood, sacrificed for sin, and present in the Eucharist— soon present on this very altar— the human body and blood of God the Son are given to us, his brothers and sisters in flesh and blood— his brothers and sisters in God the Father.

The Eucharist is the price of God’s mercy.

In the Body and Blood of Christ, we are not mere spectators of this price.

We are participants.

We are participants in Christ’s Body and Blood that prove, proclaim and pay the price of God’s mercy.

The Eucharist is the prodigy, the promise, the presence and the price God paid for mercy.

John’s penance is not an effort to buy God’s mercy.

Rather, his penance is a sign of love and thanksgiving, yearning to point forward to and echo the price of God’s mercy— a price paid in flesh and blood so as to offer more than a mere cancellation of debt.

John’s rough diet, his camel skin clothing and solitary life in the desert all point towards the price God paid for mercy.

John, then, does not contradict the song of tender mercy his father sang when John was born.

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
for he has visited and brought redemption to his people.
He has raised up a horn for our salvation
within the house of David his servant,
even as he promised through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old:
salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us,
to show mercy to our fathers and to be mindful of his holy covenant
and of the oath he swore to Abraham our father,
and to grant us that, rescued from the hand of enemies,
without fear we might worship him in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give his people knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God
by which the daybreak from on high will visit us
to shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.
[Lk. 1:68-79]

 

Turn. Love. Repeat.

 


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