HERALD BOTH IN LIFE AND DEATH

Few people are saved (cf. Matthew 7:14).  Fewer yet are those enlisted in the canon of Saints of Holy Mother Church.  But who receives remembrance and praise like John the Baptist? Two feasts, honoring his two births: his birth from Elizabeth’s womb, and his birth into eternity!

To continue with a liturgical study, it is interesting to look at things old and new.  The new Confiteor at Holy Mass gets straight to the point: I confess to God (and everyone else in Heaven), and I confess to you, my brothers and sisters (and everyone else on earth).  The old Confiteor took the time to acknowledge a few other people, including John the Baptist, both in the first part (the confession), and in the second part (the petition for prayer).  The Baptist was brought to the memory of the Faithful at every offering of the Holy Mass, along with his name being mentioned in the Roman Canon.  Such is his import and prestige among the disciples of Our Savior.

John was the privileged herald of the Messiah.  And on the feast of his Passion, we see that he was a herald both in life and in death.  In life, he went about proclaiming “ECCE, AGNUS DEI!” (Jn 1:29).  In death, with joy he proclaimed to the souls in captivity, ‘the Messiah has come, he will come soon to save us’!

Our reflection upon what happens after death is of utmost import.  Most people fear death (natural enough I suppose), but this leads very often to a failure of even thinking of what comes after death.  This, in effect, can lead to a false understanding, and a practical unbelief in the Afterlife! 

So we ought to reflect upon what is to come.  Leaving John’s first birth to another feast, let us ponder his second birth.  He had seen the Messiah.  He had proclaimed Him, pointed Him out, acknowledged His authority, and it was time for John to depart.  It has been the case that many Saints have died in a way that reflects the Death of Our Lord.  Stephen’s martyrdom is an example in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 7:55-60).  Peter’s crucifixion, upside down, is another.  John is not so different.  He had been mistaken to be the Messiah!  He was arrested, as was Our Lord.  He was maltreated by Herod, as was Our Lord.  He dies in the midst of violence, immorality, and the thronging of a mob, as was Our Lord.  John Chrysostom speaks of the goodness of John and the wickedness of the circumstances:

John is the school of virtues, the guide of life, the model of holiness, the norm of justice, the mirror of virginity, the stamp of modesty, the exemplar of chastity, the road of repentance, the pardon of sinners, the discipline of faith – John, greater than man, equal to angels, sum of the Law, sanction of the Gospel, voice of the apostles, silence of the prophets, lantern of the world, forerunner of the Judge, center of the whole Trinity!  And so great a one as this is given to an incestuous woman, betrayed to an adulteress, awarded to a dancing girl! (“Golden Legend: Readings on the Saints” 520)

…and, we might add, handed over by a man mouthing evil oaths! (Mt 14:1-12)

To move from the evil circumstances of John’s Passion, what good news could we offer to rectify the injustice?  John’s Passion was not John’s end.  John’s first birth, as our first birth, was ordered to his second birth.  It does us little good to have been born, if we are not preparing for birth into eternity.  In Biblical language, “It would be better for that man to not have been born!” (cf. Mt 26:24)

John was born into eternal bliss on that day.  He was a herald both in life and in death.  He was now assured of such joy, and proclaimed it to those in captivity, those who had been waiting for a redeemer, those going back all the way to our first parents.  To Adam, John could say, “The New Adam has come!  He has come to save us!”  To the patriarchs and prophets, John could say, “the King and Ruler of Israel has come!”  No longer with distant promises, the faithful in captivity would rise, and look to the gates of deliverance, expectation renewed at the arrival of the Herald.  With what joy and elation did John and the rest greet Our Lord when He came in power to save, when He came and trampled the gates of Hell, when He opened the gates of Paradise, when John’s heralding was fulfilled!  And the last ‘ECCE’ was the best, for it was not in passing proclamation, but the beginning of an unending beholding.  John could fix his gaze on the Lamb of God, the Lamb once slain, never to die again! (Rev 5:6)

Sources:

The Catholic Encyclopedia. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 486-491. Print.

The Golden Legend: Readings on the Saints. First single-volume paperback edition. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012. 520. Print.

The Navarre Bible: Saint Matthew’s Gospel. 3rd edition. New York: Scepter Publishers, 2005. Print.

Misty Edwards – The Harlot

A number of images from Sacred Scripture come together in this very serious piece of poetic worship by Misty Edwards.
The adulterous woman (John 8:1-11) forms the substance of the prayer. Misty uses this familiar Biblical account to place each of us into the same situation as the harlot, that is: we have all sinned, and deserve the judgment of God.

Some of the other Biblical themes in this drama: the harlot is a reoccurring symbol of Old Testament and also of Revelation.
The cup of wrath is seen as our suitable punishment, since we have violated the laws of God. He is holy, and we have sinned.
In miraculous and redemptive fashion, the Lamb of God comes on the scene and takes what is ours and makes it His own. We see here a beautiful, gripping, and salvific allusion to the Cross of Jesus Christ. The Perfect, Holy One of God takes what is our due, here described as “the cup” of wrath, the cup that was mine, the cup that I deserved.
WHAT A GIFT!!!

Look what He has done for us!!! Would we not return praise and thanksgiving to the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!!!

The Beloved Disciple’s Testimony and Your Testimony

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I would like to look at John, the beloved disciple, and reflect on a few seasons of his life.  I would like to connect them with your life, so that you can identify where you are in relation to his path.

Should we start at the end of his life or the beginning?  Let’s mention the end, so we know where we are going, but quickly return to the beginning, so we can walk with one foot in front of the other.

THE END:

Towards the end of John’s life, the skies opened up and he received THE revelation of Heaven’s glory.  That’s what happened towards the end of John’s life, and I want to connect it with your life.  OBJECTION NUMERO UNO: “That’s never gonna happen to me.”  With that kind of attitude, you are right!  Christians don’t seem to be receiving revelations of Heaven all that often.  One important impediment: the attitude of “not for me.”  I am here to tell you that it IS for you.  And we are going to look at John’s life to see how we can be ready to receive this kind of gift from God.  This revelation/ecstatic/rapturous state of John wasn’t only for him.  His was particular, in that it was designed by God to become one of the 27 New Testament letters, but that doesn’t mean that others don’t get to be in this kind of deep relationship.  One of the reasons given why John omits his name from the Gospel he wrote, replacing his name with “the beloved disciple,” is that you can insert your name into the story, that is, so that you can see that these things aren’t just for him, but for the many.  So, let’s go back to the beginning for John, and find there your beginning.

TRUTH SEEKER

John was a disciple of John the Baptist.  John was looking for truth.  You are looking for truth.  John was lucky enough to have a humble teacher, one who knew that he was not the fullest expression of the truth.  Is the truth you are seeking a humble teacher?  Will your teacher bow if a fuller expression of the truth comes forward?  Some people look to science.  Some people look to a political party or ideology.  Some people look to a philosophy.  Lots of people are looking to vague quasi-religious self-help principles that seem humble, but actually lead to a claim of superiority.  Some people only look to themselves, which is the most dangerous thing you can do.  John was seeking truth.  The Baptist was a great teacher of truth.  And the Baptist was humble, bowing when the Truth came along.  “Behold, the Lamb of God” (John 1:29ff.)  So John left his teacher to follow The Teacher.

GETTING TO KNOW JESUS

John spent three years getting to know Jesus.  He was witness to many things.  You have witnessed Jesus working in your life as well.  Let’s fast forward a bit.

RETURNING TO WHAT I KNOW

After seeing so many things, and most recently, the Death, Resurrection and appearance of Jesus, John (and company) go to Galilee according to the Lord’s command.  What do they do when they arrive there as they wait for Jesus?  Peter says “I am going fishing.”  And the disciples go fishing.  SCREECH TO A HALT… They just witnessed their leader rise from the dead, and they go fishing?!  WHAT?! And you have done that as well.  Having witnessed so many things of the Lord, on retreat, in prayer, in worship, through a bible study or a book, in peoples’ lives, you have often returned to what you know.  It is sometimes a straight-up backslide (bad deal). Other times it has been an “I didn’t know what to do, so I just did what I knew” kind of thing.  Other times it has been simply laziness (ouch).  Jesus showed up to John and He wants to show up to you:
‘I have come and have found you.
You returned to what you knew.
I want to show you something new.’

‘I have come and have found you. 
You returned to what you knew. 
I want to show you something new.’

BEARING WITNESS

Having moved on from witnessing so many things, and having been called out from what he knew to something new, John and company receive the power of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  NOTE HERE: If John didn’t first seek truth, he wouldn’t have followed Jesus.  If he wouldn’t have followed Jesus, we wouldn’t have witnessed so many things.  If he didn’t witness so many things, he wouldn’t have been ready to cry out that day on the water “It is the LORD!” (John 21)  If he didn’t get called of that water, he wouldn’t have been ready for the Pentecostal Fire.  He was ready for the Pentecostal Fire because of all the steps already taken.  (Cough, cough)  Getting the drift?  For your life?  The end will come, but only by way of the beginning.  BEGIN!

John receives ‘power from on high’ with the brothers, and they go and preach in the name of Jesus.  They get in big trouble, and get told “Don’t preach in this name any longer.”  And they were glad to suffer abuse “for the sake of the Name” (Acts 5: 17ff).  Here comes the ever familiar excuse: “I don’t know how to speak of Jesus.  That’s not my gift.”  Have you not received the Holy Spirit?  Does not God call you His temple, a dwelling place of His Holy Spirit?  Is not the Holy Spirit the One who will do these things in you?  So what are you worried about you.  It’s not up to you to do great things.  It’s up to you to let the Lord do great things with you.  True humility isn’t me saying I can’t do it.  True humility let’s God do what He wants to do with me.

RAPTUROUS ECSTASY

Truth seeker.  Getting to know Jesus.  Returning to what I know.  Bearing witness.  All these steps are steps John took and steps you’ve taken, or are taking, or are looking to take, or are learning now that they are the steps of Christians, and you are a Christian.  This leads John to be in a place of preparedness for something outstanding.  John got exiled to an island called Patmos, which is between Greece and Turkey.  He was dwelling in a cave, having lived a faithful and persevering life.  God brought John into a vision that altered, I’m sure, everything for him once again.  Heaven opened up.  John saw God seated on a throne.  John saw the angels.  John saw the redeemed.  John saw the cosmic battles.  John saw it all.  What do you think he thought about after that vision?   Fishing???  The desire for total communion with those in Heaven and total union with God in Heaven must have been all that remained for him.  And this is for you.  Consumed longing is for you.  It REALLY is for you.  Maybe not today.
Maybe today you need to decide to seek truth.
Maybe today you need to get to know Jesus more.
Maybe today you need to realize that you have returned to what you know.
Maybe today you need to receive the Pentecostal Fire.
Maybe today you need to bear witness.
Maybe today you need to decide to be faithful each day.
Maybe today is your day for rapture.

CHRONOS AND KAIROS

A very dear friend and mentor of mine speaks of ‘chronos’ and ‘kairos’.  Chronos is chronological time.  Kairos is anointed time.  We’ve looked at John’s life in chronos.  You don’t have to live a long life and wait for rapture.  John followed the Baptist for a while in chronos.  John followed Jesus for 3 years in chronos.  John went and preached in chronos.  And in chronos, kairos happened, late in his life.  Chronos is no longer an impediment.  Jesus can work wonders in you in no time at all.  You can live the devoted life now.  You can live the Pentecostal life now.  You can live in deep union now.  Kairos doesn’t have to be in your future; it can be in your now.  You are the limiter, not time.  Let’s learn from the path of John, the beloved disciple.  TODAY IS THE DAY.

MORE PROOF

Still don’t believe me that this is for you, but was only for John… search some of these names.  A bunch of normal people who gave themselves over to Jesus and were invited into this kind of reality.  Gemma Galgani, Consolata Bertrone, Therese Neumann, Pere Lamy, Gabrielle Bossis, Josefa Menendez, Mary of the Holy Trinity, Padre Pio, Paul of the Cross, Bernard of Clairvaux, Hildegard of Bingen, Hugh of St. Victor, Bonaventure, Angela of Foligno, Gertrude of Saxony, Julian of Norwich, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Margaret Mary Alocoque, Faustina Kowalska.

What If God Was One Of Us? … On Jesus Taking A Human Nature

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“The Saviour having in very truth become Man, the salvation of THE WHOLE MAN was brought about.” – St. Athanasius, Letter to Epictetus.

“Truly our salvation is not merely apparent, nor does it extend to the body only, but the whole man, body and soul alike, has truly obtained salvation in the Word Himself.  That then which was born of Mary was according to the divine Scriptures human by nature, and the Body of the Lord was a true one; but it was this, because it was the same as our body.” – St. Athanasius, Letter to Epictetus.

“Believe then that this Only-begotten Son of God for our sins came down from heaven upon earth, and took upon Him this human nature of like passions with us, and was begotten of the Holy Virgin and of the Holy Ghost, and was made Man, not in seeming and mere show, but in truth; nor yet by passing through the Virgin as through a channel; but was of her made truly flesh, and did truly eat as we do, and truly drink as we do.  FOR IF THE INCARNATION WAS A PHANTOM, SALVATION IS A PHANTOM ALSO.  The Christ was of two natures, Man in what was seen, but God in what was not seen; as Man truly eating like us, for He had the like feeling of the flesh with us; but as God feeding the five thousand from five loaves (Mt 14:17 ff.).” St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catecheses, No. 4:9.

“If, then, the sojourn of the Lord in flesh has never taken place, the Redeemer paid not the fine to death on our behalf, nor through Himself destroyed death’s reign.  For if was was reigned over by death was not that which was assumed by the Lord, death would not have ceased working his own ends, nor would the sufferings of the God-bearing flesh have been made our gain; He would not have killed sin in the flesh; we who have died in Adam should not have been made alive in Christ; the fallen to pieces would not have been framed again; the shattered would not have been set up again; that which by the serpent’s trick had been estranged from God would never have been made once more His own.” – St. Basil, Letters, No. 261:2

“For that which He has not assumed He has not healed.” – St. Gregory Nazianzen, Letters, No. 101.

“If only half Adam fell, then that which Christ assumes and saves may be half also; but if the whole of his nature fell, it must be united to the whole nature of Him that was begotten, and so be saved as a whole.” – St. Gregory Nazianzen, Letters, No. 101

“For the purpose of God the Word becoming man was that the very same nature, which had sinned and fallen and become corrupted, should triumph over the deceiving tyrant and so be freed from corruption.” – St. John of Damascus, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, Bk. 3, Chap. 12.

“Let Christ raise you by that which is man, lead you by that which is God-man, and guide you through to that which is God.” – St. Augustine, On the Gospel of St. John, Tr. 23:6

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