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What then are we to say? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy. For the scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.’ So then he has mercy on whomsoever he chooses, and he hardens the heart of whomsoever he chooses.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, ‘Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.’ And the disciples asked him, ‘Why, then, do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’ He replied, ‘Elijah is indeed coming and will restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but they did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man is about to suffer at their hands.’ Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them about John the Baptist.
It is not as though the word of God had failed. For not all Israelites truly belong to Israel, and not all of Abraham’s children are his true descendants; but ‘It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named after you.’ This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as descendants. For this is what the promise said, ‘About this time I will return and Sarah shall have a son.’ Nor is that all; something similar happened to Rebecca when she had conceived children by one husband, our ancestor Isaac. Even before they had been born or had done anything good or bad (so that God’s purpose of election might continue, not by works but by his call) she was told, ‘The elder shall serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘I have loved Jacob, but I have hated Esau.’
Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John came; and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. Let anyone with ears listen!
Joshua crossed the Jordan to attack Jericho. But Saint Paul teaches: “Our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the unseen powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens,” (Ep 6,12). Those things that were written down are images and symbols. For Paul says elsewhere: “These things happened as an example; they have been written down as a warning to us, upon whom the end of the ages has come,” (1Co 10,11). If, then, these things have been written down as a warning, well then!, why delay? Like Joshua, let us set out to war, attacking the greatest city in the world, namely wickedness, and let us throw down the arrogant walls of sin. Would you look around for which path to take, which battlefield to choose? No doubt you will find my words extraordinary; nevertheless, they are true: limit your quest to yourself alone. In you lies the combat you are going to engage, within yourself the structure of evil and sin to pull down; your enemy emerges from the depths of your heart. It is not I who say this but Christ. Listen to him: “From the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, unchastity, theft, false witness, blasphemy,” (Mt 15,19). Do you realize the power of this enemy force that advances against you from the depths of your heart? Those are our real enemies.
I am speaking the truth in Christ I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
John's father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy: ‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favourably on his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a mighty saviour for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.’ The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.
The greatest of men was sent to bear witness to Him who was more than a man. For when he who is “from among those born of women the greatest” (Mt 11,11) said: “I am not the Christ” (Jn 1,20) and abased himself before Christ, he gave us to understand that in Christ there is something more than a man... “From his fullness we have all received” (Jn 1,16). What does it mean by “all of us”? It means the patriarchs, prophets and holy apostles, both those who came before the Incarnation and those who have been sent subsequently by the Incarnate Word himself: “of his fullness we have all received.” We are clay pots; he is the spring. Thus..., John is man, Christ is God. Man must be abased that God may be exalted. It is to teach us to humble ourselves that John was born on the day after which the days begin to grow shorter; to show us that God must be exalted, Jesus Christ was born on the day when the days begin to grow longer. There is a profoundly mysterious teaching at stake here. We celebrate John's nativity as we do Christ's because this particular nativity is full of mystery. What mystery? The mystery of our greatness. Let us grow smaller in ourselves to grow greater in God. Let us humble ourselves in our lowliness to be exalted in his greatness.