Author Archives: macaubulletin

 
 

Birth of St. John the Baptist – June 24, 2018

A Courageous Witness of the Light

 

There is a video by Fr. Fernando Armellini with English subtitles

commenting on today’s Gospel reading:

 

Introduction

 

The cult of the Virgin Mary began to rise and develop in Jerusalem in the V century. A century earlier, in the IV century, the cult of John the Baptist was so widespread as to be considered universal. 

 

The people paid tribute with an extraordinary veneration to this saint. He is the most represented in the art of all ages; there is no altarpiece, no group of saints in which he does not appear. He is covered with the characteristic camel’s hide, the belt around his waist and holding a stick that ends in the shape of a cross.

 

He is the patron of countless dioceses; shrines and churches are dedicated to him, beginning with the “mother of all” churches, St. John Lateran, founded by Constantine. The name John—translated in every language—is the most common name in the world. Many cities and countries were named after him (128 in Italy, 213 in France).

 

The Baptist is also loved by the Muslims. They named the famous Umayyad Mosque of Damascus, a symbol of interfaith dialogue, after him. How do we explain this sympathy?

 

The Baptist is not renowned as a miracle worker—this is, in general, a prerogative, which makes the saints popular. Whoever wants to obtain graces does not appeal to him, but to more powerful intercessors. So there are other reasons for such devotion.

 

The first reason is certainly Jesus’ praise of him: “When you went out to the desert, what did you expect to see? A reed swept by the wind? What did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? People who wear fine clothes live in palaces. What did you really go out to see? A prophet? Yes, indeed, and even more than a prophet. I tell you this: no one greater than John the Baptist has come forward from among the sons of women” (Mt 11:7-11).

 

Then, the simple people admired his austerity of life and his courage not to bend his head in front of the powerful. He defended the truth and justice with his life.

 

Finally, it should be said that it was mainly the monks who popularized his figure. Since the beginning of the fourth century, they populated the Judean desert where the Baptist had spent his life. They considered him one of them, a model of ascetic life and for this, they spread the cult. 

 

The choice of his feast day—celebrated, since the time of St. Augustine, on the 24th of June—is linked to the summer solstice, the day when the sun reaching its zenith begins to set along the horizon. To believers, the decline of sunlight recalled the availability of the Baptist to disappear, to give the place to one who was greater than him. After recognizing in Jesus the expected messiah, he confided to his disciples: “My joy is now full. It is necessary that he increases but that I decrease” (Jn 3:29-30).

 

To internalize the message, we repeat:

Great are those who know how to step aside after fulfilling their mission.”

 

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13th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B – July 1, 2018

Rescued From Death by the God of Life

 

There is a video by Fr. Fernando Armellini with English subtitles

commenting on today’s Gospel reading:

 

 

Introduction

 

Despite the suffering it entails, humans desperately love life. Ulysses in Hades tries to comfort Achilles who replies: “Do not embellish me at death, O Odysseus! I would prefer, as a laborer, to serve on earth another man rather than rule over the dead.” The Egyptians viewed death differently. For them death was “everlasting life” in a wonderful kingdom, located to the west, lit by the sun god, from dawn until dusk, when it gets dark for us.

 

Among all ancient peoples the conviction of the existence of an afterlife prevailed and among the Greeks, immortality of the soul. Inexplicably, this did not happen with the Jews since they were born as a people in Egypt. They let more than a thousand years passed before they began to believe in a life beyond death.

 

They proclaimed, yes, the Lord “the God of life” (Num 27:16), but always in earthly perspective. “In you is the source of life,” sang the psalmist, but for life he meant “health and blessing” (Sir 34:17), a fertile land, abundant crops, numerous descendants, and finally, to die “at a good old age” (Gen 35:29), as the ripe sheaves that are withdrawn from the field (Job 5:26). In the Hebrew Bible the word “immortality” does not even appear.

 

The slowness of Israel in reaching an explicit affirmation of eternal life is precious and enlightening. It makes us understand that, before believing in the resurrection and a future world, it is necessary to value and passionately love life in this world as God appreciates and loves it.

 

To internalize the message, we repeat:

“From the Lord I have learned to love life, every expression of life.”

 

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