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THE FOUNDATIONAL PRINCIPLE OF ALL CHRISTIAN SPIRITUALITY
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Thursday, 3rd Week of Advent, December 15, 2011
Isa. 54:1-10, Ps. 29, Luke 7:24-30


"What did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, those who are gorgeously appareled and live in luxury are in kings' courts" (Luke 7:25).


John the Baptist was in the desert, preparing the way of the Lord, making "straight in the desert a highway for our God" (Isa. 40:3 KJV). He did not wear soft raiment, nor did he live in delights. He did not even live in a city or town, but in the desert, and he "was clothed with camel's hair, and had a leather girdle around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey" (Mark 1:6). Thus did he prepare for the coming of the Lord. He knew that if we want to enter into union with God and live in intimate union with him in our heart, we have to deny ourselves and live exclusively for him with all our heart (Luke 9:23; Mark 12:30). He knew that we should not divide our heart with passing loves, nor with other pleasures, delights, and recreations, such as the delicacies of the table and other worldly entertainments. He therefore renounced all this for the love of God in order to live for God alone with all his heart, with all his mind, with all his soul, and with all his strength, which is Jesus' first and foremost commandment (Mark 12:30), and he lived according to this principle in a radical way. He knew this foundational principle of all spirituality; that is, the renunciation of himself to live exclusively for God in every aspect of his life.


In this, John is the prototype of the eremitic and monastic life, but all forms of Christian life are based on this same principle, which one can live in various ways and to various degrees of radicalism. Those who live more radically according to this principle help everyone else, for this basic principle can be seen more clearly and more strikingly in them and so inspire the rest who are not able to live it so radically due to their other commitments and responsibilities related to their state in life. We see therefore that the fundamental principle of spirituality is the same for all; and each vocation should live it in conformity with its own possibilities and responsibilities.


The most radical way of living according to this fundamental principle of spirituality is the life of John the Baptist, the eremitic or monastic life, the desert life, the life in the desert in which we leave all else, all the delights and pleasures of this world, to live for God alone with all our heart, finding our delight only in him. This monastic or eremitic life can also be lived in community. Even though those who live like this separate themselves from the world, they nonetheless greatly help the world by giving it a clear, radical, visible, impressive, and inspirational example of the fundamental principle of all spirituality.


This is how St. John the Baptist lived; and later when he was spiritually prepared, God called him to preach to everyone else, to the whole people of God, calling them to repentance and renewal of life, to be prepared for the coming of the Lord. In this, John revealed to us both the fundamental principle of all spirituality, and how we should prepare ourselves during Advent for the coming of the Lord in grace at Christmas, and in glory at the Parousia.

 

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