Friday, June 24, 2016

Short Q&A on St. John the Baptist

What is “the Nativity of St. John the Baptist”?

Well, it’s today’s feast day, for one thing! More specifically, the word “nativity” means “the event of being born.” So, today we are celebrating the circumstances of John’s birth, and his coming into the world. John is a miracle baby. He was born to Zechariah and Elizabeth even though they were both “advanced in years” or too old to conceive a child (Lk 1:7).

Even if John had not been miraculously conceived we would still have cause to rejoice. Why? Because “he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Eli'jah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared" (Lk 1:16-17).

How can Catholics say that Mary is God’s greatest creation if Jesus himself said, “Among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist” (Mt 11:11)?

First off, here is the passage in question, along with the verses that immediately precede it:
Mt 11:9-11 Why then did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is he of whom it is written, 'Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.' 11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
The context reveals that John is the greatest of the prophets, not the greatest person who ever lived. All of the prophets of the Old Testament told of the coming Messiah and the Kingdom He would inaugurate. But, only John had the privilege of being the immediate precursor of the Messiah, of “preparing the way” for the Lord. Only John was able to see with his own eyes the one who was to come. It is in this sense that John is the greatest.

Note also the last part of vs. 11: “… yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” This means that even the least of the New Covenant saints (those who come after Christ and live according to His grace) outshine the most illustrious saints of the Old Covenant, who lived under the Law and without the sacraments.

The mystery hidden for ages and generations has been revealed to his saints (cf. Col 1:26). As long as we decrease so that Christ may increase (cf. Jn 3:30) we can be sure of a seat beside John in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Pax Christi,

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