St. John the Baptist

St. John the Baptist

By Lisa Fernandes

Today is the Solemnity of the Nativity of St John the Baptist, one of the oldest celebrations in the Church. And a popular holiday in Québec (St. Jean-Baptiste Day). John is an important figure in that he is a forerunner of Christ. This is shown in that his birthday is June 24th, six months before the birth of Jesus at Christmas. Ordinarily the death of a Saint is celebrated as a Feast Day but there are two notable exceptions, Mary and St John the Baptist where their birth is celebrated instead. While not officially declared as such, many believe that John was cleansed of original sin when he recognized Jesus and leaped within his mother’s womb. As we read in the first reading: “…pay attention, you peoples from far away! And now the Lord says, who formed me in the womb to be his servant,…” (Isaiah 49.5) Pope Francis recognizes the importance of St. John the Baptist as a model of evangelizing when he says, “In sharing the Gospel with others, Christians must be like St. John the Baptist, preparing the way for the Lord, pointing him out to others, then stepping aside.” Perhaps in that way, we can all be precursors of Christ’s second coming. John baptized Jesus and knew from the start of Jesus’ greatness. He shows his admiration and how unimportant he is in comparison to Jesus in the second reading when he says: ”…one is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of the sandals on his feet.” (Acts 13.25) John knew from the beginning he was special, as unworthy as he considered himself in comparison. His mother Elizabeth became pregnant with him even though she was not of childbearing age. He knew in the womb that he was there to herald Christ. Even when it came time to name him, though he would normally receive a relative’s name, like that of his father Zechariah, instead Elizabeth said his name would be John. Zechariah used a writing tablet and wrote: “His name is John.” (Luke 1.63) after which he regained his power of speech. John spent most of his early life in the desert until he appeared publicly — again being a forerunner to Jesus. In those days in the desert he went through dark times doubting his role but then gave light to the world in foretelling Christ. We all may sometimes feel we are going through dark times, but can look forward to the light of Christ.

Sunday’s Readings:

Isaiah 49.1-6

Psalm 139

Acts 13.22-26

Luke 1.57-66, 80