Friday, June 24, 2016 Nativity of John the Baptist

Saturday morning at 8 a.m. I will be leading a series of nine spiritual hikes in the Sedona area all are welcome. Here is the link for locations and dates.

Luke, Chapter 20, Verse 19
The scribes and chief priests sought to lay their hands on him at that very hour, but they feared the people, for they knew that he had addressed this parable to them.

Politics never changes. Those in power find it very difficult to surrender. The powerful leaders of Israel were offended because Christ told them the truth, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.”

The Real Issue was Surrender[1]

The scribes had set a trap by asking whether it was right to pay taxes to Caesar. They sought to label Him as a traitor to the Jews if he said yes and if He said no they could accuse Him before the Romans. Their plan was perfect yet, Jesus was able to see past the fa├žade. Taxes were not the issue: Surrender was the issue. Who or what are the values and assumptions about life do we surrender too? Christ’s question, “Who’s image is on the coin.” He meant that any object stamped with a person’s image belongs to the individual pictured. This coin carried Caesar’s image, so they were to surrender that coin to Caesar. Christ’s point was the Israel’s had been stamped with God’s image. They therefore should surrender themselves to God.

Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship[2]

As Catholics we therefore must give our consciences to God. Catholic’s are called to care and vote responsibly.

"We need to participate for the common good. Sometimes we hear: a good Catholic is not interested in politics. This is not true: good Catholics immerse themselves in politics by offering the best of themselves so that the leader can govern."
- Pope Francis, 9/16/13

The Catholic bishops of the United States offer to the Catholic faithful Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, their teaching document on the political responsibility of Catholics.

Saint John the Baptist[3]

John the Baptist has the honor of being the only other person besides the Blessed Virgin and our Lord whose birthday the Church celebrates with a special feast. No doubt this has something to do with the unique role that John plays in the economy of salvation. As the "Precursor of the Lord" and the greatest of the prophets (Lk. 7.28), John was given the commission of preparing the way for the Son of God. In the Confiteor he is ranked higher than Saints Peter and Paul, and is subordinate only to the Blessed Virgin and St. Michael the Archangel. (Tradition holds that like the prophet Jeremiah, John was consecrated in the womb to be free from all mortal sin.) But there is also something special about his birthday itself: John's conception in the womb of his aged mother Elizabeth was miraculous, as was the Angel Gabriel's prophecy about his mission and name (Lk. 1.5-26, 41-80). Even the birthday's location in the year is profoundly significant: because of the summer solstice, the days begin to grow shorter and shorter after his birthday. The days after Christ's birthday, on the other hand, begin to lengthen. Hence John's statement about Jesus, "He must increase and I must decrease" (Jn. 3.30), is echoed in the cycle of the cosmos. No wonder that in speaking of John, the Archangel Gabriel declares, "many shall rejoice in his birthday" (Lk. 1.14).

ST.JOHN the Baptist could not have had any greater panegyrist than Jesus Christ Himself, Who said: There hath not risen, among them that are born of women [in the natural manner], a greater than John the Baptist (Matt. xi. 11). The Lord made him great, even from his mother s womb, by causing his birth to before told by an angel, by giving him his name, and by sanctifying him while yet in his mother’s womb through the presence of Christ. To escape from the world and its allurements he withdrew to the desert, and there occupied himself only with God and with what concerned his vocation. His food was locusts and wild honey; his clothing a garment of camel s hair, fastened by a leathern girdle; his bed the hard ground. Thus he lived till his thirtieth year, in which, by the command of God, he was to proclaim the coming of the Messias, Whom he himself afterwards baptized and pointed out to men as the Lamb of God. With extraordinary zeal and earnestness he preached the necessity of true penance. For having reproved Herod for living in adultery he was thrown into prison, and finally, at the instigation of Herodias, was beheaded. We celebrate the day of his birth rather than that of his death, as is the case of most saints days, because, while other saints arrive at sanctity only through long and difficult contests, John was already sanctified in his mother’s womb. (Goffine’s Devout Instructions)

A Great Leap in the Study of Music[4]

We should also mention the breviary hymn for the Feast of St. John the Baptist: Ut queant laxis. Tradition ascribes the hymn to Paul the Deacon, who purportedly wrote it before having to sing the difficult Exultet on Holy Saturday night. (Paul was suffering from a hoarse throat and, remembering how Zechariah, the father of St. John, was cured from a case of muteness, thought it best to direct his prayers to the Baptist). What makes Ut queant laxis most famous, however, is that it is the source of our musical scale, do, re, mi. An attentive medieval monk noticed that the melody of the hymn ascended precisely one note of the diatonic scale of C at each verse. Taking the first stanza, he decided to name the notes after the first syllable of each verse:

UT queant laxis REsonare fibris
MIra gestorum
FAmuli tuorum,
SOLve polluti LAbii reatum, SancTe Ioannes.

With the exception of Ut, which was later changed to Do for ease of pronunciation, these syllables became the first six notes of our scale: Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La. And this stanza also ended up providing the name of the seventh note, Ti, which was later taken from the last syllable of the penultimate word and the first syllable of the last word of the stanza: "T" from Sancte and "I" from Ioannes. The names for the notes to our basic Western musical octave therefore come from the hymn for St. John’s feast.

Perhaps tonight would be a good night to sit and watch the sound of music with your family.


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