Nativity of John the Baptist

Luke 1: 57-66, 80
Is 49: 1-6 / Ps 139 / Acts 13: 22-26

“What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him.
(Luke 1:66)

To proclaim the Savior Jesus
Was the purpose of his existence;
Like St. John let us give witness
In our words and works of GOD’s presence.

When the time came for Elizabeth to have her child, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and kinsfolk heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they would have named him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said, “Not so; he shall be called John.” And they said to her, “None of your kindred is called by this name.” And they made signs to his father, asking him what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet, and wrote, “His name is John.” And all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he spoke, blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea; and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him. And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness till the day of his manifestation to Israel. (Luke 1: 57-66, 80)

Reflection

The feast day of all the saints and martyrs of the Church are usually commemorated on the date of their death. Only St. John the Baptist was given the special honor (along with our Lord Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary) of having his feast day celebrated on his nativity. We are told in the Gospel narrative of St. Luke that John the Baptist was born six months before the birth of our Lord. That is why the Church celebrates his feast day on June 24, exactly six months before the birth of Jesus, which we celebrate on December 25.

Why was John the Baptist given this special honor? Well, first of all, we can see from the Gospel of Luke how the nativity narrative of John the Baptist was given such prominence in the first two chapters, where his annunciation and birth alternate with those of his cousin, the Savior Jesus. We also see remarkable similarities in the birth of the Baptist and the Messiah. Both of their births were announced by the Archangel Gabriel, their names proclaimed as coming from God Himself. And both of their nativities were manifestations of God’s miraculous power: Jesus Christ born of a virgin, and St. John of parents no longer humanly capable of childbirth due to old age. But these details of his birth are only meant to highlight the fact that John the Baptist was the greatest prophet and precursor of our Lord Jesus Christ. His life plays an important role in God’s plan of salvation; he is the “bridge” between the Old and the New Testament, being the last prophet of the Old and the first prophet of the New to “prepare the way of the Messiah,” by genuine repentance.

St. John the Baptist remains one of the most influential saints in the liturgical history of the Church. He is remembered every time a child becomes a Christian through the sacrament of Baptism. His famous words, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” constantly remind us of our need for purification, to wash ourselves clean, and be worthy to receive our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

Let us make St. John the Baptist the model of our life by pointing others toward Jesus Christ, Who is the only Way to salvation. It would be a great privilege, even if like him we would be a “lone voice crying out in the wilderness.” St. John was never ashamed of his haggard appearance, clothed in camel hair, poorer than a desert rat. He was revered as a prophet of God in his time, and we revere him today as the greatest of saints in heaven.

We thank You, Father God, for the life and example of St. John the Baptist. We pray for his intercession, that our lives may be purified, to be worthy to enter Your kingdom. Amen.

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