Father Rodriguez reminds us that St. John the Baptist never sinned, but he took on great penances and mortifications.
Why? Why would one so innocent, without Original Sin or the results of Original Sin fast, pray, do physical mortification to his body?
All the prophets did penance for the Chosen People, so that God would turn away His wrath towards their sins. All the prophets did mortification in order to hear clearly the Word of God, and not merely hear themselves.
One must be purified to hear the Voice of God.
But, St. John the Baptist was pure, and He recognized Jesus as the Christ, pointing Him out to his own disciples, such as John.
But, St. John took on himself some of the suffering of Christ. He lived out the Cross before Christ's salvific action on Calvary. He willingly suffered, offering up his interecessions for the Jews through suffering, showing those who would see and hear that this is what they had to do to meet the Messiah.
Too many Jews at the time of Christ turned away from the Lord, went on their merry way, doing what they had always done, not changing, not repenting, not being open to God in their midst.
St. John suffered for his people and for us, to show us the way. Mortification is NOT OPTIONAL.
Lately, as I have met more and more weak men and peter pans, I realize what satan was doing all these past years in undermining the spiritual strength of men who did not resist him.
I make this point--men could have resisted the feminization of the Church and could have resisted being raised peter pans, but many did not. That is their fault. That is their sin.
St, John the Baptist shows us a real man, the opposite of a weak one, a peter pan.
I repeat here Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman's essay on the perfect gentleman. This essay describes what it will take to fight the evils coming upon men soon. A real man, like St. John the Baptist, takes on suffering gladly for others.
It is almost a definition of a gentleman to say he is one who never inflicts pain. This description is both refined and, as far as it goes, accurate. He is mainly occupied in merely removing the obstacles which hinder the free and unembarrassed action of those about him; and he concurs with their movements rather than takes the initiative himself. His benefits may be considered as parallel to what are called comforts or conveniences in arrangements of a personal nature: like an easy chair or a good fire, which do their part in dispelling cold and fatigue, though nature provides both means of rest and animal heat without them. The true gentleman in like manner carefully avoids whatever may cause a jar or a jolt in the minds of those with whom he is cast; — all clashing of opinion, or collision of feeling, all restraint, or suspicion, or gloom, or resentment; his great concern being to make every one at their ease and at home. He has his eyes on all his company; he is tender towards the bashful, gentle towards the distant, and merciful towards the absurd; he can recollect to whom he is speaking; he guards against unseasonable allusions, or topics which may irritate; he is seldom prominent in conversation, and never wearisome. He makes light of favours while he does them, and seems to be receiving when he is conferring. He never speaks of himself except when compelled, never defends himself by a mere retort, he has no ears for slander or gossip, is scrupulous in imputing motives to those who interfere with him, and interprets every thing for the best. He is never mean or little in his disputes, never takes unfair advantage, never mistakes personalities or sharp sayings for arguments, or insinuates evil which he dare not say out. From a long-sighted prudence, he observes the maxim of the ancient sage, that we should ever conduct ourselves towards our enemy as if he were one day to be our friend. He has too much good sense to be affronted at insults, he is too well employed to remember injuries, and too indolent to bear malice. He is patient, forbearing, and resigned, on philosophical principles; he submits to pain, because it is inevitable, to bereavement, because it is irreparable, and to death, because it is his destiny. If he engages in controversy of any kind, his disciplined intellect preserves him from the blunder. [From The Idea of a University, 1852]