St. John the Baptist – II

Friends in Christ, in olden times, the Holy Mass was often explained in terms of the life of Christ. The joy of the Gloria represented the birth of Christ, the Gospel is the public life, the preaching of Christ to the world, the Consecration is Our Lord’s saving death on the cross, the Rite of Communion, his resurrection.
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That being the case, we can see that the 1st reading prepares the way for the Gospel, and so the Epistle was always seen as a symbol of John the Baptist, who prepares the way for Christ, that is, the Gospel.
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Today is the Solemnity of the Birth of St. John the Baptist. John the Baptist in his day was a sign of contradiction to the people; he lived an ascetical life in the desert, living on the land, fasting, wearing animal skins. In his day, material prosperity was supposedly a sign of God’s blessings, so this life of John was a contradiction. But John was calling people to repentance, repentance of their sins, and an invitation to make sacrifices in life.
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The early monks of the Church, and the desert fathers, they embraced this penitential life as much as John the Baptist. St. Neilos the Ascetic says, John the Baptist lived in the desert wilderness, and yet entire towns went out to see and hear him. Those dressed in silk rushed to hear the man dressed in skins; those who lived in luxurious houses went to see a man who chose the desert; those who sleep on beds went to see the one who slept on the sand.
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All of this was strange to them, yet in leaving their comfortable lives to see John, they did not really notice their hardship, because everyone really knows that holiness is worth more than luxury. The famous and the rich of those times are long forgotten, but the life of John the Baptist is acclaimed still today, because holiness is more valuable than anything else.

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