Honoring the Baptist

Luke 1:57-66
Mal 3:1-4,23-24 / Psa 25

“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 His presence.

When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.” They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.” Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him. (Luke 1:57-66)

Reflection

Among the four evangelists, it is only St. Luke who gives an “intertwining” account of the births of our Lord Jesus Christ and His cousin John the Baptist. In both cases, their nativities were considered miraculous acts of God, not possible to happen in the natural course of events. John’s mother was known to be barren, and his parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah were both old and way past the age of procreating a child. Mary, the cousin or niece of Elizabeth, was a young virgin, and her pregnancy was through the power of the Holy Spirit, a phenomenon that almost no one at that time would believe, and even today, many could not accept as true. Both of their births were announced by the Archangel Gabriel, their names proclaimed as coming from God Himself. The birth of the Baptist preceded the birth of the Messiah. But this was only to fulfill the prophecy of the last prophet of the Old Testament, Malachi, who declared, “See, I will send My messenger, who will prepare the way before me.” (Mal.3:1) This prophecy highlighted the fact that John the Baptist was the greatest prophet and precursor of our Lord Jesus Christ. His life played an important role in God’s plan of salvation; he was 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,” through 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 this Christmas.

Lord, as we honor St. John the Baptist today by pointing others toward Jesus Christ, as the only Way to salvation, grant us the grace to be bold like him, even if we would be a “lone voice crying out in the wilderness.” As St. John was never ashamed of his haggard appearance, clothed in camel hair, poorer than a desert rat, he was revered as Your prophet in his time, and we revere him today as the greatest of saints in heaven. Amen.

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