FEAST OF THE NATIVITY OF ST. JOHN BAPTIST.
"HE was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoce in his light," spake our Blessed Lord, honoring His forerunner.
To whom spake He thus? To Jews, mostly unconverted.
Were then those carnal men capable of rejoicing in a luminary which lit up the valley of humiliation, the penitential pathway unto righteousness? Yea, for the Truth hath said it.
And even thus we read elsewhere of King Herod, how he "feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly."
Nevertheless, neither the monarch nor his subjects did the one thing needful: they picked and chose among their sins; of which some may have fared like discarded favorites, while the favorites of the hour were retained.
Half-hearted and double-faced such men resemble husbandmen who prune salient twigs from a poisonous plant, by that very pruning strengthening the deep-seated unattacked root.
So, after a while, Herod slew the Baptist. And again, after a while, Herod mocked the Lord Christ and the Jew crucified Him.
It is then possible (though possible only up to a certain point) for sinners to admire virtue, practise righteousness, approve things more excellent, extol repentance, skim amendment, yet all the time to abide at enmity with God.
It was possible for many of old: it is possile for ourselves of to-day.
"Try me, O God, and seek the ground of my heart: prove me, and examine my thoughts. Look well if there be any way of wickedness in me: and lead me in the way everlasting.