Tuesday, 4 July 2017

St. John the Baptist Precursor by St. Augustine

St. John the Baptist and Christ Matthew 3:13-17

From a sermon by Saint Augustine, bishop

The Voice of one crying in the wilderness

The Church observes the birth of John as a hallowed event. (Birth of St. John the Baptist Feast Day June 24th).  

John the Baptist's birth
We have no such commemoration for any other fathers; but it is significant that we celebrate the birthdays of John and Jesus.  This day cannot be passed by.  And even if my explanation does not match the dignity of the feast, you may still meditate on it with great depth and profit.

John was born of a woman too old for childbirth; Christ was born of a youthful virgin.  The news of John’s birth was met with incredulity, and his father was struck dumb.  Christ’s birth was believed, and he was conceived through faith.

Such is the topic, as I have presented it, for our inquiry and discussion.  But as I said before, if I lack either the time or the ability to study the implications of so profound a mystery, he who speaks within you even when I am not here will teach you better; it is he whom you contemplated with devotion, whom you have welcomed into your hearts, whose temples you have become.

John, then, appears as the boundary 
between the two testaments, 
the old and the new.  

That he is a sort of boundary the Lord himself bears witness, when he speaks of the law and the prophets until John the Baptist.  Thus he represents times past and is the herald of the new era to come.  

As a representative of the past, he is born of aged parents; as a herald of the new era, he is declared to be a prophet while still in his mother’s womb at the arrival of blessed Mary.  

The Visitation

In that womb 
he has already been designated a prophet, 
even before he was born, 
it is revealed that he was to be Christ’s precursor, before they ever 
saw one another.  

These are divine happenings going beyond the limits of our human frailty.  Eventually he is born, he receives his name, his father’s tongue is loosened.  See how these events reflect reality.

Zechariah is silent and loses his voice until John, the precursor of the Lord, is born and restores his voice.  

The silence of Zechariah is nothing 
but the age of prophecy lying hidden, 
obscured, as it were, and concealed 
before the preaching of Christ.  

Zechariah regains his voice 
At St. John’s arrival Zechariah’s voice is released, and it becomes clears at the coming of the one who was foretold.  The release of Zechariah’s voice at the birth of John is a parallel to the rending of the veil of Christ’s crucifixion.  

If John were announcing his own coming, Zechariah’s lips would not have been opened.  The tongue is loosened because a voice is born.  For when John  was preaching the Lord’s coming he was asked: Who are you?  And he replied:  I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.   

The voice is John, but the Lord in the beginning was the Word.   

St. John the Baptist preaching

John was a voice that lasted 
only for a time; 
Christ, the Word in the beginning, is eternal.

St. Thomas the Apostle by St. Gregory the Great

St. Thomas the Apostle - John 20:24-29

St. Thomas, Apostle Feast Day July 3rd

From the homily on the Gospels by Saint Gregory the Great, pope

My Lord 
and my God

Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.

He was the only disciple absent; on his return he heard what had happened but refused to believe it.  The Lord came a second time; he offered his side for the disbelieving disciple to touch, held out his hands, and showing the scars of his wounds, healed the wound of his disbelief.

Dearly beloved, what do you see in these events?  Do you really believe that it was by chance that this chosen disciple was absent, then came and heard, heard and doubted, doubted and touched, touched and believed?  It was not by chance but in God’s providence.  

In a marvelous way God’s mercy 
arranged that the disbelieving disciple, 
in touching the wounds of 
his master’s body, 
should heal our wounds of disbelief.  

The disbelief of Thomas has done more for our faith than the faith of the other disciples.  As he touches Christ and is won over to belief, every doubt is cast aside and our faith is strengthened.  So the disciple who doubted, then felt Christ’s wounds, becomes a witness to the reality of the resurrection.

Because you have seen Me, you believed.
Touching Christ, he cried out: My Lord and my God!  Jesus said to him: Because you have seen me, Thomas, you believed.  Paul said: Faith the guarantee of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.  

It is clear, then, that faith is the proof of what cannot be seen.  What it seen gives knowledge, not faith. 

When Thomas saw and touched, why was he told: You have believed because you have seen me? Because what he saw and what he believed were different things.  

God cannot be seen by mortal men.  

Thomas saw a human being, whom he acknowledged to be God, and said: 
My Lord and my God. 

Seeing, he believed; 
looking at one who was true man, 
he cried out that this was God, 
the God he could not see.

What follows is reason for great joy: Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.  

There is here a particular reference to ourselves; we hold in our hearts one we have not seen in the flesh.  We are included in these words, but only if we follow up our faith with good works.  The true believer practices what he believes.  But of those who pay only lip service to faith, Paul has this to say: They profess to know God, but they deny him in their works.  Therefore James says: Faith without works is dead.