daily biblical sermons

Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Monday, December 19, 2011
Judg. 13:2-7, 24-25, Ps. 70, Luke 1:5-25

"For he will be great before the Lord, and he shall drink no wine, nor strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb" (Luke 1:15).

John the Baptist was consecrated to God from his mother's womb as a Nazirite, that is, a man separated and consecrated to God, who does not drink wine or strong drink, and who lets his hair grow long (Num. 6:5). Normally a Nazirite consecrates himself only for a limited period of time (Num. 6:8), but John will be consecrated and separated for God for his entire life, as was Samson, who was a Nazirite from his mother's womb to the day of his death. An angel announced the birth of John, and the same happened for Samson. The angel told Samson's mother that he would be consecrated for his whole life: "Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son; so then drink no wine or strong drink and eat nothing unclean, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from birth to the day of his death" (Judg. 13:7).

So we see that in Israel there was a state of special consecration to God in which the Nazirite (the consecrated person) does not drink alcohol or cut his hair. In this way his separation and consecration is public. All know that he is a Nazirite from his hair, and they then understand that this man also does not drink alcohol and is specially separated and consecrated to God.

John the Baptist was a Nazirite for his whole life, and not only a Nazirite but also an ascetic, living in the desert; and even his clothing was an external sign of his consecration, for "John was clothed with camel's hair, and had a leather girdle around his waist" (Mark 1:6). And more still, his food also was distinct from that of others and very austere, for he "ate locusts and wild honey" (Mark 1:6).

The monks of Egypt in the fourth century (the Desert Fathers) saw in John the prototype and inspiration of their own way of life, which was a life of prayer and fasting in the desert far from the world in order to be completely dedicated and consecrated to God, to love and serve him alone with all their heart, without any division of heart. Through them comes the monastic, religious, celibate, and consecrated life that we now have in the Church today. It is a celibate life in order to have an exclusive nuptial relationship with the Lord, and it is a life of austerity in food, eating simple and plain food. Strict monks do not eat meat, live within monastic enclosures, and dress in a distinct way, like John, in habits, as a public sign of their consecration. Priests are also specially consecrated to God, are celibate, and dress in a distinctive way in clerical attire, which is a public sign of their consecrated clerical state; and their distinctive dress is as much an aid to themselves as it is to those who see them, reminding themselves and everyone else of God and of a life completely dedicated to him. Such consecrated persons are at the service of the whole Church, giving it a visible and inspiring example to remind everyone that they too should live for God alone, as radically as they can in their state of life.

If we want to attract new religious and priestly vocations in our day, we must live well this consecration to God. If young people do not see an edifying and inspiring example in our way of living, they will not be attracted to dedicate themselves to the religious, priestly, and celibate life. In this, all of us who are priests or religious have a great responsibility. Without our good example, the work of vocations directors will be in vain. It will not bear fruit.

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