Happy Birthday to St. John the Baptist. Yes, it is on the Church calendar for today, June 24th, and this saint and martyr was one to put it all on the line. On this birth memorial, we recall that he was born to be a prophet, even as to be THE prophet of THE MOST HIGH High, as Scripture describes him.
On this Sunday, I ask us to relate to John the Baptist and Prophet, because we are born again, in baptism, to be prophets too. At Baptism, the Rite anoints us to be priest/prophet/king: sharers in Christ the priest, in his holiness, and then, to be unique people of His in a prophetic way, living our lives out for Him in our own special way, and then, to be living as people under the reign of a king, in our Lord Jesus. What are we to do in this life? Well, as prophet, like John, we are to witness to Him by our lives, as in speaking about truth and of virtue and showing it forth in our Catholic faith.
If John the Baptist could ask for a birthday present, then perhaps he would ask from the Church to live in our own prophetic message to the world, and in doing so in a way to promote justice. Just like John was prone to give.
Like in taking a stand against domestic violence and abuse in our world today, and reaching out to victims of it. That’s something the Church and its people ought to be doing.
I’ve been waiting for the right Sunday to give a message about domestic abuse issues, and the timing seems right here and now to give it. Domestic violence is a serious matter. It’s current to us in America and across the world. We should be appalled about the hurts it causes, from its perpetrator to its victim. It is an injustice going on today around the world.
The 2014 facts in the USA indicate one in four women and one in seven men have experienced serious physical violence by an intimate partner. In that same year I was visiting a house of a
man who said he was regularly assaulted by his wife, and when I knocked on the door and had it open to me, the wife was running to the door at him and threw something dangerous at him, and he ducked and it nearly hit me. I knew his claims were surely true by that moment!
Yet the ones most caught in the middle or the firing line are the children exposed to domestic abuse—about 6.6% or 5 million American children today. They can suffer the effects of it for a lifetime. When they become adults, they then have latent needs for healing that may be critical, as told by our healing priest Fr. Scott who was here on Saturday giving a talk. Fr. Scott said how he is kept busy on that front in a healing ministry to soothe people from the tragic hurts inflicted from abusers in the lives and homes.
Domestic violence is really impactful when it moves on to sexual areas. Nearly 1 in 5 women have been raped in their lifetime, and stats for men are not near that, but are climbing rapidly—due to new factors going on.
Stalking is another form of domestic abuse. In my ministry, in helping a parish woman evade her stalker, the perpetrator took it out on me to slash my car tires. There is danger and wild abandon to people who have come to feel entitled to domestic violence. Maybe you, too, like me, have been targeted by a stalker. Or known a person in that predicament.
St. John the Baptist would use strong words against these abusers. If he called some dishonest, two-faced, un-sorry men as a “brood of vipers” (in Luke 3), over their pretense to be healthy persons (when actually they had no regrets nor repentance for their serious sins)—then he would not spare the prophetic word for abusers today. John the Baptist had a message to address serious unrepentant sinners: He warned them: “Flee from the wrath to come.” Meaning, God will deal with the person in final judgment, with “it” coming closer every day to all unrepentant, hard sinners, and so, rather than facing the likely wrath to come upon the blatant sinner, instead, God wants them to run and meet Him in His Truth and by His Mercy, so as He can deal with them and their problems now and to get them to a graceful and delivering solution, for the great relief of all people around their offender. God wants the situation to change, with harm turning to peace, and hurt getting bathed in long-overdue forgiveness and healing. God wants it to happen freely, too, and not by coercion on His part, nor by others. John the Baptist taught that.
Yet there is a lot of denial and deceit sown in the perpetrator of domestic violence. They act like they are entitled to it. They surely are not. And it is not the fault of the person on the receiving end. Often they are the ones to hear from their offenders that they ‘had it coming.’ No, this basically is false. A person does not deserve to be abused.
As for any family member in this situation, it should not hurt to go home. Repeat: It should not hurt to go home. This is a slogan of the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence.
John the Baptist, our Birthday Saint today, was the prophetic voice for change to Israel, to preclude the Work of the Lord Messiah arriving. St. John the Baptist took the precursor role to Christ’ coming, so as to speak out on the injustices of his day. John is the passionate pleader of people to get their crooked ways straightened out, and their rough spots smoothened, in clear awareness that God’s immanent coming among us brings on His Truth. This again is a message in Luke 3. The big question in that chapter, as addressed to the blatant sinners, is:
Why stand against God’s truth? John the Baptist bids this consideration to the people.
John goes on to say that God’s winnowing fork is in His hands to separate and judge all persons. It is coming. The Light of God will reveal all things, too. So, why go against the all-knowing God? Why persist in one’s sin—and remain as a slave to awful sins—ones that hurt even your loved ones and/or family?! Really—What has got the offender so angry and violent in the first place?
Abusers often show some signs. They might be extremely jealous, or have this bad want to control their partner’s life and activities, or feel the need to exercise physical force to solve problems and get one’s own way, or have to be the one to dominate and head things, without challenge. Substance abuse or occult involvement or greed and the lust of money may underlie their actions. It’s never an excuse for any abuse of another.
The abused may be ones who get constant and unending insults and belittling, and threats against themselves and/or their children, as with intimidation and harassment tactics, and social isolation and deprivation. In the physical realm, there is pushing and shoving down and kicking and holding down and striking for harm, even choking and forced acts upon one’s person, even of intimate places. No one deserves that! It is all an affront on the dignity of the human person. This is the major point of the social teachings of the Church—human dignity. We need to show respect to one another, as equal images of God.
Jesus New Covenant has a new commandment in it: Love one another, as I have loved you. Thus, relationships should be based on measures of equality and non-violence, but not on power and control for domineering and of badly mistreating another person(s). Power and control issues are actions guilty of levying economic control, and the verbal attacks, coercion and threats, isolation, intimidation, lying attacks and the blackmail style efforts of deceit, using loved ones or relationships for surely self-agendas, is just atrocious! The abuse of authority by those in this sin is disgusting, as they show no heed to another’s voice of reason or concern, and they look to deflect all of the responsibility away from their guilty actions, as in minimizing, denying and blaming or shifting away blame.
Ok. There are outlets and avenues to take action versus these offenders or for help to victims. The Archdioceses of Washington and Baltimore runs an operation under Catholic Charities called “Catholics for Family Peace.” For urgent cases, there is the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Or just 911. In Montgomery County there is the Abused Persons Program, and the Family Justice Center, too. These are great responders to victims. Of course, we ought to be the initial responders and supporters of those who are hurting—as in living the New Love Commandment of Jesus.
Some people need guidance and re-direction. For example, some erroneously think that people in marriages with serious domestic violence need to stay in them, as their part of sticking to their vows. They don’t. Our Church does not teach that. And if a beaten wife or husband were to be met by Jesus on the road, do you really think He’d say: ‘You must go back and endure all of that, as suffering in My Name?!’ No, He’d say: “Come to Me, and I will give you rest. I want you to be safe.’
In my life, in some times, I have taken to helping to hide run-away abused persons, and not to turn them away or to head back to their danger.
In these strong abuse-in-marriage cases, one is not asked to be faithful to Jesus in some punishment of self, or in a martyrs-like act—it would not be healthy to act in one’s own self-loathing—as in giving in to the offender. That’s not martyrdom. Some people still think they are obliged to take all the abuse in the name of faith. One does not have to do so at all! Point made.
Actually, to care for one’s self dignity is a love that Jesus wants His people to learn— it is a lesson on living our lives as being an image of God. Psalm 139 today spoke to how we are beautiful in God’s sight, and wonderfully made, even in secret when we first were formed in our mother’s womb.
Do we see ourselves as beautiful images of God? Sometimes, we may be tempted to act or think or behave to our worse self-identity, due to a victimhood feeling of so much guilt or shame, so tricked by their abuser to being crazily guilty by some lie formed upon us, the victim. Yet, the truth is, one does not have to be submissive to abuse. The Bible does not ask the wife to be submissive in that way, or the husband to lay down their lives for trampling and unguarded attack.
Why else do people put up with abuse? There are many reasons for it. The fear of unknown worse attacks is sometimes an explanation of the victim’s reason given for staying in the pain of ongoing, hard abuse. Or protection of the children or property or something—that could be the reason.
Yet, the persons in these situations needs advice on how to escape that trap ahead, if they can. Abuse often escalates without any interference in its path, as you might know.
If you have been in domestic violence in your life, then know that I and the Church care for you, because God cares. You may have received harm that is deep, maybe in some physically way (face cut up, arm once broken) or emotionally scarring (you have much trouble trusting anyone anymore) or you can be hurting spiritually (why did God let this happen to me?) and it may have you choosing a life of less, rather than of your just share. Come to the Healing and Just Christ.
Come to the healing. Come and find the Way to the Light.
John the Baptist speaks to us on his birthday! Come to the Light Who is Jesus, and Who is Freedom in His Holy Spirit.
If you are the one who has done the abuse, then come and face the truth and lay yourself down upon the Mercy of God. You are given this time to repent, rather than die in sin. John the Baptist sought out such desperate people. Some people you’ve harmed may never want to speak or meet you again, but you can at least let some reparation begin, as it may, first after you repent. John the Baptist said: “I repent with water, but He, the Christ, will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
I finish this John the Baptist homily versus the injustice of domestic violence, by quoting him, from his desert pulpit: ‘Do you think you are well? Rather, you need to prepare the Way of the Lord for His coming to you. You most need it—His fixing up of your lives. Lay an open path to your heart. Do you not know that the Lord intends to make all things right and new? Every valley and low place shall be filled, so no one who has been laid low by oppression or inequality and any other manner of sins besetting humankind, will be kept down, but they shall be lifted up. While, on the other hand, every exalted one standing up against God and His virtue and truth, shall all be brought low! ###
[We thank our guest priest whom we had in here at church on Friday and Saturday, who told us about healing and its power, as he shared how he learned so much about it in life in the hard knocks way, of needing to recover from something in his own life. He found the healing in Jesus. Fr. Martin Scott brought a positive message that there is healing in living in the Truth and in living in the Light of God’s grace. He was a witness to that. And He is helping others to healing now—as the wounded healer.]