Epistle Reading of the Birth of St John the Baptist – June 24
(Epistle to the Romans 13:11-14, 4:1-4)
Our Church has assigned this reading for the Birth of the Forerunner. Whilst St Paul does not directly refer to St John the Baptist, he is nevertheless an excellent example of all the virtues St Paul is referring to.
When St Paul writes that, “now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed” (13:11), it reminds us of St John the Baptist’s mission in calling the Jews from their spiritual sleep with “repent”, so that they might be ready to receive Jesus Christ. Therefore, we should also “cast off the works of darkness” (13:12).
And so we are told to “walk properly” (13:13) and not fall into sin. This reminds us of the virtues of St John, who boldly told Herod it was wrong to take his brother’s wife.
We are subsequently told to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh” (13:14). This reminds us of three key works of St John. Firstly, he pointed his disciples towards Christ and later preached Christ in Hades. Secondly, he baptised by the Jordan. In the baptism service we chant the hymn, “As many of you as have been baptised into Christ, have put on Christ”, reminding us of St John’s mission. Finally, St John lived in such a way that he made “no provision for the flesh”, eating only wild honey and locusts and wearing camel’s hair.
The remaining verses remind us that not all Christians have the same rigor and discipline. We are encouraged to accept all and not judge because “who are you to judge another’s servant?” (14:4). Our weaknesses are overcome as we move closer to Jesus. As St John Chrysostom commented, St John the Baptist directed his disciples to Jesus so that their faith would grow (Matthew 11:2-14).
Source: Lychnos June-July 2020 edition