Tag Archives: Saint John the Baptist

24 June: Saint John the Baptist: Dipped in Light, Dipped in Grey – Editor’s note.

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Today is the feast of John the Baptist. As John the Evangelist tells us,

The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to give testimony of the light, that all men might believe through him. He was not the light, but was to give testimony of the light. That was the true light, which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world. 

John 1:5-9.

And of course, for us in the Northern Hemisphere, this is the longest day, the light-filled day. For Southerners, Antipodeans, the days are about to lengthen. So now turn over and read Sister Johanna’s poem, and cast away greyness, revel in the light.

You may also care to revisit T, Alfie and Ajax’s musings on greyness in all its aspects: https://agnellusmirror.wordpress.com/2017/01/10/land-of-plenty/

Photo: Zakopane, Poland, Holy Family Shrine.

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9 January: The Baptism of Our Lord

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When my ten-year-old godson was baptised, he chose a new name, one that was important to him: his Father’s name.

When my son was baptised he was given names from his grandfathers and godfather. Our daughter’s names, too, were chosen to say something about who they were and where they came from.

We can learn something about a person – and their parents and ancestors – from their surnames.

And so it is when Jesus is baptised; we are told something about him: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

While John was right to say that Jesus did not need his baptism of repentance, by accepting it Jesus witnessed to his relationship with his Father – a relationship John encouraged his penitents to renew at a personal level through a symbolic death and rebirth in the water.

Let’s pray for the grace to be faithful to our baptism by daily witnessing to our relationship with the Father and by daily renewing that relationship in our moments of reflection and repentance.

MMB

The Baptism of the Lord, Basilica of the Holy Family, Zakopane, Poland.

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15 December: Accept God’s invitation to change.

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There is an aura of joy about today’s readings; in the first, the people are told to: “Shout for joy” and mourn no more, for salvation was coming.  Isaiah was prophesying about a time when the people had repented and returned to God, and He had forgiven them, making a “Covenant of peace” with them which would never be shaken.  His only requirement was that the people had faith in Him.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus commends John, who had been the “greatest of all the children born of women”, because he had known what God wanted and had not been afraid to preach it.  He had been the person bridging the gap between the Old and New Testaments, showing people the first step of the new order: repentance and baptism.  Yet, those coming after who accepted the teaching of Jesus would be in a greater position than John because they had faith, having learned the truths of the Gospel, and were to benefit from the Sacrifice of the Cross.

The reading ends with a warning to the Pharisees, who had been too proud and too convinced of their righteousness to receive baptism from John. They had not realised that this was how God was leading His people at this time; they were “Thwarting God’s plan”.

Let us pray that we will always be open to change our ideas to do whatever God asks of us.

FMSL

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14 December: Recognising God in the world.

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Today is Wednesday in the third week of Advent, .and also the Memorial of Saint John of the Cross Priest and Doctor of the Church. He was a Carmelite friar who was outstanding in his holiness and knowledge, as his many spiritual writings testify.

The first reading from Isaiah 45: 6-8; 18, 21-26 is telling us that “Apart from me, (God) all is nothing. I am the Lord unrivalled. There is no other god besides me, a God of integrity and saviour;… Turn to me and be saved. From the Lord alone comes victory and strength”. As we are in this Advent period of waiting for Christ, how open I am to receive him? How prepared am I to welcome him and accept him and His good work in me? Am I ready to recognise him in my daily life?

In the Gospel, John the Baptist sends his disciples to go and ask Christ if he is the Messiah, or are they to wait for another? (Luke 7: 19-23) God comes to me in my daily activities and in the people that I meet each day. I meet God in creation, in the stillness of the lonely valleys…flowing with fresh water’… as St John of the Cross says in his Spiritual Canticle. I pray through the intercession of St John of the cross, that God will give me the grace to be strengthened, and rooted in the Love of God, that I may have the power to comprehend with the saints the breath, and length, and height and depth of the Love of Christ which surpasses all knowledge (cf.Ephesians 3:18). Amen.

FMSL

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October 18: Is Something Wrong?

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Where is that place apart

you summon us to? Noisily

we seek it and have no time

to stay.[1]

 

‘Wrong?’ is the title R.S. Thomas gives this poem. The question mark is important. It’s true enough, we – I – often have no time to stay in a ‘place apart’, like the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral. Indeed getting there every week, let alone every day, requires some organising, and today the place was closed to visitors for a graduation!

Some will call this ‘wrong’, but is it? It’s the way things are, and no doubt it always was. After the murder of John the Baptist Jesus took his disciples to a place apart, but they were overtaken by the crowds, so that Jesus found himself teaching and feeding 5,000 men (not to count the women and children) Matthew 14.

Earlier he had taught them to pray thus:

Enter into thy chamber, and having shut the door, pray to thy Father in secret: and thy Father who seeth in secret will repay thee.  And when you are praying, speak not much, as the heathens. For they think that in their much speaking they may be heard.  Be not you therefore like to them, for your Father knoweth what is needful for you, before you ask him. (Matthew 6:6-8)

Daniel’s praying quietly in his chamber (Daniel 6) did not prevent his enemies from denouncing him for praying to God, and then casting him to the lions.

Daniel’s quiet place was within his heart. Had he panicked in the lions’ den the angel would have had a hard job to hold them off!

R.S. Thomas concludes with God whispering to us of

…the stepping

aside through the invisible

veil that is about us into a state

not place of innocence and delight.

There are places on earth that seem to favour taking that step, let’s be grateful and spend time there when we can. Let’s also find quiet moments wherever we are to step through the veil, torn forever on Good Friday. (Matthew 27: 50-51)

 

[1] ‘Wrong?’ Selected Poems p287.

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29 September – William Blake’s ‘Angel Appearing to Zacharias’

William Blake, The Angel Appearing to Zacharias. c.1799-1800. Pen, ink, tempera and glue on canvas. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image released under the Metropolitan Museum’s Open Access for Scholarly Comment scheme.

 

The pictures posted today and tomorrow are from another series of pictures of biblical subjects painted by William Blake for the civil servant Thomas Butts. Before Blake made Butts the watercolours of which we saw one yesterday, he painted fifty small temperas of biblical subjects.

Within this group of paintings, Blake’s Nativity pictures seem to act as a distinctive sub-group with a strong sense of series – an unfolding narrative which reflects the artist’s conception of Christ’s identity as the source of Vision and prophecy. Christ’s advent in Jesus is part of an ongoing process of revelation.

The New Testament sequence in Blake’s biblical paintings opens with The Angel Gabriel appearing to Zacharias. This is an unusual subject: I have not come across other examples by Blake’s contemporaries, but it is possible that Blake had seen prints of Old Master versions such as Ghirlandaio’s fresco in the Tornabuoni chapel, Florence.

The angel is bringing news of the birth of John the Baptist, the prophet of Christ and a figure with whom Blake himself identified (because Blake saw himself as a prophet).

Blake strips away the temple architecture which tends to dominate images of this subject and contrasts the priestly trappings of Zacharias and the temple with the simple white garment of the angel – the herald of the prophet who points to the blast of light coming from above.

Zacharias doubts Gabriel’s prophecy and is struck dumb in punishment until the child is born (Luke 1:18-20), demonstrating that doubt hinders prophecy, although this blast of light outshines the menorah (the seven branched candle-stick) and the fire on the altar. Blake, who saw angels in a tree on Peckham Rye, and on the beach at Felpham uses this story to encourage his viewer to trust in the messages of angels.

NAIB

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July 9; Relics VII: Wow! And is it true?

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The case of Saints Jucundina and Verecunda at Folkestone illustrates why relics are looked at sideways by many of us. If we know nothing of these two women, however can we call them saints? And how is it that John the Baptist has at least three heads (my daughter Naomi having visited two of them)? Understandably, today the Church insists that it is better for an altar to be dedicated without relics than to have relics of doubtful credibility placed beneath it.[1]

Father Knox reminded us on Monday that ‘people used to use relics rather freely in the Middle Ages’, so it was worth bringing some home from one’s pilgrimage or crusade. Louis IX of France came back to Paris with the Crown of Thorns and built the Sainte Chapelle to house it. Was it truly the Crown of Thorns? He thought so.

La Sainte Chapelle has the ‘wow’ factor to get into all the guide books, but the Crown of Thorns means more than the building – and yet, even if it was truly Christ’s Crown of Thorns – it means less than the answer to John Betjeman’s question:

And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue,
A Baby in an ox’s stall ?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me ?

That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.[2]

It matters not if the bread and wine are consecrated by a bishop in la Sainte Chapelle, or on a rickety table by a military chaplain, or in a parish church somewhere near you. God lives today in the Universal Church; that is you and me and all saints, living and dead. Relics can remind us of that but they are no substitute for the daily miracle of the Eucharist. And far less of a challenge to us as we live our lives from day to day.

Saint John the Baptist:                           Pray for us.

Saint Louis of France:                           Pray for us.

All saints, known or unknown today:      Pray for us.

[1] Rite of Dedication of a Church and an Altar, Chapter II, 5

[2] John Betjeman, ‘Christmas’.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sainte_Chapelle_-_Upper_level_1.jpg Didier B (Sam67fr)

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Friday 24th June: Bear Fruit Worthy of Repentance!

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FMSL

‘BEAR FRUIT WORTHY OF REPENTANCE!’ (Matthew 3:8)

mercylogoToday we are celebrating the feast of Saint John the Baptist. So today we can spend a little time to meditate on God’s mercy through the words of the Baptist. Always and especially in this year we are continually listening the proclamation of the mercy of God. In the Bible we can see that after the proclamation of Saint John the Baptist thousands of people confessed their sins and converted their life.

Now we may be confessing our sins and receiving God’s mercy in different ways. Is it enough? Is God expecting anything more from us? Can we do anything to please God or to express our gratitude? Let us listen to the words of Saint John the Baptist. He instructed all the people who received God’s mercy and converted their life, ‘BEAR FRUIT WORTHY OF REPENTANCE’ (Matthew 3:8).

How can we bear fruit?  We are not able to feed all those who are hungry. We have human limitations. We are not able to do many things. Then what can we do? We can behave mercifully to all those who are weak.  We can overcome our judgmental attitude to all people. We can give love to those who are sick and needy. We can spend our time to spread Word of God. Perhaps we can even dedicate our lives to it like Saint John the Baptist. Without any blaming, Jesus has accepted us. We have received enough mercy from God and freely, so Jesus says, ‘GO AND DO LIKEWISE’.

FMSL

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12th February: Mercy, Not Sacrifice!

Francismercy poster

 

FRIDAY AFTER ASH WEDNESDAY

Isaiah 58: 1-9, Psalm 50, Matthew 9:14-15

mercylogoIn today’s first reading, the Lord tells Isaiah to shout to the house of Jacob, to tell them their sins. They seek Him, they long to know His ways, His laws and above all, they want God to draw near to them. They seek all these things with fasting and penance.

I think most of us do the same today. But what does God say to them and to us?  You oppress those that are under you.  You make people know that you are giving alms.  God is saying that this is not the type of fast that pleases Him.

God is telling us to be more loving in all our ways. God is telling us that the type of fast that pleases Him is when we have BENEVOLENCE, which leads us to love others for themselves, independently of subjective interest.

In the Gospel, John’s disciples are also concerned with fasting.  They even go to Jesus to ask Him why his disciples do not fast. Look at Jesus’ response: ”Surely the bridegroom’s attendants would never think of mourning as long as the bridegroom is still with them?”  Jesus’ way is LOVE and MERCY. If there is love and mercy in our hearts, we will not lack intimacy with God. We must also love inclusively, just as Jesus does, because we all are precious in His eyes. Our friendship with Him should lead us to look with His eyes; to suffer in His suffering and rejoice in His joy.  Seeing from His viewpoint, we will offer ourselves to work with Him for the good of all our brothers and sisters, rather than judging or oppressing them. That is what this Year of Mercy is about.

FMSL

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* 25/12 Christ’s Nativity

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Philadelphia Museum of Art

In William Blake’s The Nativity, a tiny Christ appears leaping in a blast of light, outshining the paler light of the star of the Nativity outside (both are cruciform, thus strengthening the comparison), as the embodiment of vital, illuminating energy. He is leaping away from his mother, who swoons into Joseph’s arms, and towards the outstretched arms of Elizabeth who kneels opposite with John the Baptist in her lap.

Christ is often depicted as the source of light in images of the Nativity, but Blake’s idea of Christ as a leaping blaze is apparently unprecedented, breaking with the convention of depicting figures grouped adoringly around the infant.

The association of the advent of Christ with light here reflects the Johannine Prologue (the Gospel appointed for Christmas Daytime Mass in the Roman Lectionary) which refers to the coming of ‘the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world’ (John 1:9). It is the Baptist who bears witness to the Light (John 1:7-8), which could have influenced the inclusion of John and Elizabeth here.

NAIB, adapted by WT

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