Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, June 24
Let Us Look to the Courage and Strength of Faith We Find in the Life of John the Baptist as a Holy Example for Each of Us to Follow in Our Own Individual Pilgrimage through Life.
“What, then, will this child be?” – This is what the people were asking in today’s Gospel after seeing the glory of God manifested through Zechariah.
When I look at my young grandchildren playing and the carefree lives they live, I remember back to my own youth. And I suppose many of us who are parents or grandparents also reminisce when observing our children or grandchildren innocently living out their different fantasies, whether it be little girls playing mother with their dolls, or young boys imitating their fathers.
The innocence and purity of childhood is something at which we can all marvel, for it is a time in most people’s lives when they have not yet given much thought as to what their futures hold for them, for it is a carefree and joyous time.
Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of the birth of Saint John the Baptist, the elder cousin of Jesus, who, long before he was formed in his mother’s womb, was chosen by Almighty God to be the herald, the forerunner of the prophesied Messiah.
Our Scripture Readings today give us insight into who this John truly was. In our First Reading, from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, we see God’s Word speaking to us about one who will be “a sharp-edged sword” and “a polished arrow”, a servant through whom God will show His glory.
Isaiah continues to tell us that this servant will be “a light to the nations” and that God’s salvation will “reach to the ends of the earth.” We normally associate these words with the coming of the Messiah, but they could also be applied to any prophet who courageously preaches God’s Truth; and today, we reflect upon these words as a window into the life of John whose “voice of one crying out in the desert” truly was “a sharp-edged sword” to the contemporaries of his day.
Even in our Second Reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Paul is teaching in a synagogue about Jesus. And he explains that John was the herald who proclaimed the arrival of the prophesied Messiah “by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.”
When we look at all that Scripture tells us about John, I begin thinking again about children, and I wonder what sort of childhood he may have had. We know that John was born of very old parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah. Common sense would then lead us to believe that John was probably orphaned at a very young age.
Scripture also tells us that Zechariah was a priest of the Old Covenant, and that his wife, Elizabeth, was descended from the daughters of Aaron, who was the brother of Moses. Scripture continues to reveal that John’s parents were “both righteous in the eyes of God”, and, therefore, we could infer that they probably were very influential in John’s spiritual upbringing.
Other than that, Scripture tells us nothing else of his childhood – very similar to our limited understanding of Jesus’ youth. All that we can glean from Scripture is what we read in the Gospel for today, “The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.”
John the Baptist’s life and his ministry were fueled by one burning passion, one burning desire – to point others to the coming of God’s Kingdom, and to the Messiah who would lead them there.
Scripture tells us that John was filled with the Holy Spirit even while he was developing in his mother’s womb through the Presence of our Lord Himself, when Mary, pregnant with Jesus, came to visit and assist her older cousin, Elizabeth.
As an adult, when John began speaking the Word of God to the people of Israel, much of his message was similar to the message of the Old Testament prophets who chided the people of God for their unfaithfulness, and who tried to awaken in God’s children a spirit of true repentance. But his message was much more than this, for John was the precursor of Christ and his ministry was to herald the Messiah’s coming, breaking the prophetic silence of the previous centuries.
Among a people who were oftentimes unconcerned about the things of God, it was John’s purpose in life, his ministry to awaken their interest – unsettling them from their complacency, and arousing in them a spiritual hunger which would help them to recognize and receive Christ when He would finally come.
Even our Lord, in praising the great importance of the role which John played in salvation history, said of him, “Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist.”
What is the significance of John the Baptist and his message for our lives in today’s world? When God acts to save us, He graciously fills us with His Holy Spirit and makes our faith come alive within us, just as He did with the Baptist, just as He did with all the saints who lived their individual walks of faith before us in fulfillment of God’ will!
And each and every day of our lives, our Lord is ready to renew us in our faith, too – a faith filled with hope and love, a faith filled with the joy of loving God and loving one another.
John the Baptist is an example to all of us of a selfless giving of self for the needs of others. Like John, our Lord invites each of us to make our life a free-will offering to God. He teaches us that He is the Giver of all good gifts, and that we must use them in His service each day of our life on this side of the eternal, from birth until death, for His greater honor and glory.
Let each of us today renew the offering of our life to God, and give Him thanks for His unfathomable Mercy and the favors which He has bestowed upon us. And let us look to the courage and strength of faith which we find in the very person of John the Baptist, a man filled with both humility and dedicated service to God’s call, and who ended up giving his life for the sake of God’s Truth and the coming of His Kingdom.
May John’s holy example guide each of us in the life of faith which we are called to live, so that we may one day hear, as I am sure John himself heard before the very Throne of Almighty God Himself –
“Well done my good and faithful servant…Come, share your master’s joy.”
May God bless you, God love you, and may God always keep you. †
Please Comment, Like and Share, and Suggest to your Facebook friends – to spread the message of God’s Merciful Love.
Por favor Comente, Le Gusta y Comparta, y Sugiera a tus amigos en Facebook – en difundir el mensaje del Misericordioso Amor de Dios.
Scripture for the Day
- “All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, ‘What, then, will this child be?’ For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.” (Luke 1:66)
- “The LORD called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name. He made of me a sharp-edged sword and concealed me in the shadow of his arm. He made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me.” (Isaiah 49:1b-2)
- “You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you knew; my bones are not hidden from you, When I was being made in secret, fashioned in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me unformed; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be.” (Psalm 139:13-16)
- “[John] grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.” (Luke 1:80)
- “John heralded [the Messiah’s] coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel; and as John was completing his course, he would say, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.’” (Acts 13:24-25)
- “Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope, for he who made the promise is trustworthy. We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works. We should not stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some, but encourage one another, and this all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:23-25)
- “[God] will repay everyone according to his works: eternal life to those who seek glory, honor, and immortality through perseverance in good works.” (Romans 2:6-7)
- “Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor. Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.” (Romans 12:9-11)
- “Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist.” (Matthew 11:11a)
- “Well done my good and faithful servant…Come, share your master’s joy.” (Matthew 25:21bd)
Prayer for the Day
Who are the Light of the minds that know You,
the Joy of the hearts that love You,
and the Strength of the wills that serve You.
“Grant us so to know You, that we may truly love You,
and so to love You that we may fully serve You,
Whom to serve is perfect freedom,
in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”Saint Augustine of Hippo