One Monk of the Order of Saint Benedict

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The Word of God and the Body of God reveal each other -- the homily worships both.

June 24, 2010

For the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

Luke 1:57-66,80

With all the odd things about the begetting and birth of Saint John the Baptist, we can be sure the people of the land watched his life closely.
All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?”

First of all, with the whole assembly of the people at prayer, the angel of the Lord had come to the temple to tell the priest Zechariah that his wife was to bear him a child.
The Lord’s angel then did something that had never happened: he gave the child a name from God before the child had even come to be.
After that, the only other one in the Bible whose name God told before his earthly life began was the Lord Jesus.
“John” is from the Hebrew Yochanan, meaning, “Yahweh is gracious.”
Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son,
and you shall name him John
And you will have joy and gladness,
and many will rejoice at his birth,
for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.

He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb,
and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.

... to turn... the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous,
to prepare a people fit for the Lord.

After the birth of John, the Gospel today tells us “all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea.”
From his birth the people of the land talked about him, and we can be sure they also watched.
We don’t know how old he was when he went to the desert.
It seems he lived there quietly for some time, as the Gospel tells us “he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.”
With “the day of his manifestation” John began to preach repentance, conversion, calling the people of the land to turn their hearts from sin and back to God.
All that it takes for us to be what the Gospel calls “people fit for the Lord” is our sincere repentance— an honest and intentional commitment in turning away from sin.
That is one of the vows we make as monks after Saint Benedict.
In the teaching of St. Benedict this vow of a monk is conversatio morum suorum— meaning the frequent, ongoing, lifelong turning of a man’s ways from sin and back to God.
Saint John the Baptist called the people of Israel to conversion as a way of being fit for a new coming of Yahweh who is gracious.
All the land had been talking, watching, waiting, and now many answered and obeyed Saint John.
It was no accident— it was natural, fitting, and God’s will— that the Lord Jesus in the fullness of his manhood first showed up to begin his mission precisely where the people were turning to God in a baptism of repentance at the hands and by the teaching of Saint John.
This is the bedrock and heart of the ongoing truth of Saint John’s teaching and mission.
Namely: that the Lord who is gracious will begin to show up in our lives, and work his mission precisely and only when and where we repent, turning our lives, ways, and deeds away from sin to face him and follow him.
Behold, the Lamb of God,
behold, he takes away the sins of the world.
Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.

If we answer with our lives, we will see his life become the answer within us.
Then, like Saint John the Baptist, we also will be filled with the Holy Spirit.

That God Be Glorified in All