Tuesday June 24, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Feast of Saint John the Baptist
Reading I (Isaiah 49:1-6) Reading II (Acts 13:22-26)
Gospel (St. Luke 1:57-66, 80)
Today as we celebrate the solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, we recall that he is “the greatest man born of woman”, as Our Lord Himself testified about Saint John the Baptist, and that in the greatness of this man, not one single miracle is ever mentioned in Scripture about him. He was a highly unusual man according to worldly standards, living out in the desert in camel’s hair and eating grasshoppers and wild honey. Not the kind of guy that most people would be attracted to, and in our day they would probably put him into a hospital because they do not understand the holiness of God. They look only at the externals and not at the internals, and they miss the reality of what God is doing in the souls of His saints.
When we hear the question in the Gospel “What is this child to be?” Saint Augustine, some sixteen hundred years ago, answered the question in what I have found to be the most profound manner. Saint John the Baptist said, “What you suppose me to be I am not.” He was similar, but was not the one. And so Saint Augustine says of Saint John that he was the voice. Saint John himself said that: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord’.” So he is the voice, but Jesus is the Word. Saint Augustine says that the voice remains only for a moment, but the Word remains forever. One can hear a voice spoken and that remains just for an instant; but if the word is the Word of God, it remains etched into the mind and it never goes away. Saint John simply spoke the word, but Jesus is the Word Who was spoken. John is the voice, Jesus the Word.
He continues to speak to us today through the Church. In this particular time his role is extremely important because we are told that he will come before the day of the Lord. Just as John the Baptist was Elijah, so Elijah has to come again. John the Baptist came in the spirit of Elijah, that spirit which had been passed on from Elijah to Elisha and now had been given to Saint John the Baptist. John the Baptist, in that spirit of Elijah, continues on to this very day and the Church continues to proclaim the coming of Her Messiah.
I find it rather interesting (and we will see if in God’s Providence it was all arranged this way) but considering the events that are happening in our world, the things that are going on, I cannot help but to marvel that we celebrate this feast today and (as things happen in the Church’s calendar year) the feasts of the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart are just two days away. As Saint John the Baptist was the herald of the coming of Christ, so too he is going to be the herald of the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which is going to be ushered in through the Sacred Heart of Jesus. And so the fact that these feasts are arranged in such a way this year (only because of when Easter fell) is perhaps merely a coincidence, perhaps a little more than that, we will see. We will listen for the voice; we will watch for the Word; and we will hear the Lord speaking in our heart as He points us to His mother and the coming of the Triumph of Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart, which is soon to come upon this world. It is going to be heralded by none other than John the Baptist in the spirit of Elijah to turn the hearts of children to their heavenly Father, and the heart of our heavenly Father through Our Blessed Mother so that we will be saved, so that on the day of the Lord we will have our hearts turned the right direction. And the voice having been heard, the Word etched into our hearts, we will seek Him Whom our hearts love, and we will find His mother leading us to her Son.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.