In John the Baptist, a Lesson for Us All
On the Feast of the Visitation we started looking at meditations on various liturgical feast days from the Founder of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, St. Stanislaus Papczynski. These meditations are compiled in the work Inspectio Cordis (Contemplation with the Eyes of the Heart), translated from the original Latin by Fr. Casimir Krzyzanowski, MIC.
Today, June 24, is the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. Let's turn our hearts to the meditations of St. Stanislaus Papczynski, Founder of the Marian Fathers, who was canonized on June 5, 2016. We'll begin with the account in the Gospel of Luke of the angel Gabriel appearing to Zechariah:
"Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John." (Lk 1:13)
Saint Stanislaus begins, "Consider that very many complain that their prayers are not heard. But the reason why a prayer has not been heard is placed in the man, and not in God." The reason he gives for this, is that for one who is unrepentant in sin God does not favorably hear their extra petitions. What the Lord knows they need is repentance and conversion, not what they think they need (a new car, house, a vacation, etc.) The Lord hears the prayers of Zechariah for a child — a son — because both he and Elizabeth were "righteous in the eyes of God" (Lk 1:6)
As for us, St. Stanislaus encourages us, "try therefore to keep yourself in grace, that your prayers may always be heard."
"John will drink neither wine nor strong drink." (Lk 1:15)
Saint Stanislaus writes, "Consider how God, about to choose the son of Zechariah to be a great herald [of Christ], predicts his future temperance and abstinence. Hence you conclude: that without this [temperance and abstinence] nobody can become a true orator of the Divine Word." Now, does this mean that we are never to drink wine or something of that nature? No. Saint Stanislaus in his time period, in Poland, was dealing with a rampant problem of alcoholism among men, and so for his religious community he made it a rule that they would not drink strong drink. He further explains, "if the task of a preacher is that he may induce the people to pass from vices to virtues, first he should show by the example of his life what he is about to preach by the word of his tongue. Indeed, deeds teach better than words; they stir more."
We are to follow the example of Christ, leading a life of virtue, for "I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do" (Jn 13:15).
He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God." (Lk 1:16)
Seeking the many lost and lukewarm souls is of utmost importance. Saint Stanislaus writes, "this work is most distinguished among the foremost [works], inasmuch as in it is contained both the love of God and of neighbor, the love on which all perfection depends. And consider that they, who call back the morally ruined to the path of eternal life, indeed truly cooperate with Christ the Lord in [procuring] the salvation of souls." This calls to mind St. Faustina: once God told her that on the Day of Judgment, He would demand of her a great number of souls (Diary 52). Do you know that souls depend upon you and your witness to Jesus Christ and your prayers? "For Christ assumed human flesh for no other end, except to save that which was lost" (see Lk 19:10).
Saint Stanislaus exhorts us to arouse in ourselves the desire to convert those who have turned away from the Lord, seeing to it that that desire increases daily, while making sure to see to it that you yourself always turn back wholeheartedly to the Lord.
"But now you will be speechless and unable to talk* until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time." (Lk 1:20)
Saint Stanislaus writes, "Consider how strongly incredulity, hesitation and doubting in divine matters displease God, since that is why he is punishing Zechariah. He takes away from him the use of speech because he did not believe the words of the angel, as he was justly bound to do so. Hence, be convinced that in matters of faith you should not hesitate at all." When divine inspirations come to you, make a "fiat" like Mary, with prudence and discernment, do not doubt or hesitate to say yes to the will of God. When given tasks by those above you, "avoid all debate in your mind, but receive them with simple faith and fulfill them with simple obedience."
"And he shall go before Him" (Lk 1:17)
Saint Stanislaus used the analogy of marshals before a king to John the Baptist coming before Jesus. Today these would be the secret service around the President, who clears the way and prepares the people for his coming. "So this Saint, as a footman, clearing the way ahead, performed the duty of a marshal of Christ, in order to pave the way to the immortal King about to come to the mortals. Hence, he called himself the Voice of one crying in the wilderness (see Jn 1:23): 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths' (Lk 3:4)."
As for us, we are to be obedient to the inner inspirations of the Holy Spirit which prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ the King, by prayer, penance, fasting, and works of mercy.
"Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her." (Lk 1:58)
Saint Stanislaus tells us to, "Consider the rushing of friends, families and neighbors together to Elizabeth: their joy, applause and congratulations made to their relative, friend and neighbor, for the reason that she who was barren gave birth."
When will we refresh our brothers and sisters, and the saints in heaven, with equal joy? When we serve the poor and the suffering in works of mercy, when we fast and pray and mortify ourselves, what seems to cause "barrenness" in a material and physical way, becomes abundantly fruitful in a spiritual way — what joy that brings to earth and heaven!
On this blessed feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, let us also become prophets in the world today, preparing the way for the Lord!