23 Jun – Solemnity of the Nativity of the Nativity of St John the Baptist (Vigil Mass)
John the Baptist (d.30) was the cousin of Jesus Christ. His father, Zachary, was a priest of the order of Abia whose job in the Temple was to burn incense; and of Elizabeth, a descendant of Aaron. As Zachary was ministering in the Temple, an angel brought him news that Elizabeth would bear a child filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment of his birth. Zachary doubted and was struck dumb until John’s birth.
John began his ministry as prophet around age 27, wearing a leather belt and a tunic of camel hair, living off locusts and wild honey, and preaching a message of repentance to the people of Jerusalem. He converted many, and prepared the way for the coming of Jesus. After baptizing Christ, he told his disciples to follow Jesus.
Imprisoned by King Herod, John the Baptist died a victim of the vengeance of a jealous woman; he was beheaded, and his head brought to her on a platter. St. Jerome says Herodias kept the head for a long time after, occasionally stabbing the tongue with her dagger because of what John had said in life.
– Patron Saint Index
The word of the Lord was addressed to me, saying,
‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;
before you came to birth I consecrated you;
I have appointed you as prophet to the nations.’
I said, ‘Ah, Lord; look, I do not know how to speak: I am a child!’
But the Lord replied,
‘Do not say, “I am a child.”
Go now to those to whom I send you
and, say whatever I command you.
Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to protect you –
it is the Lord who speaks!’
Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me:
‘There! I am putting my words into your mouth.
Look, today I am setting you
over nations and over kingdoms,
to tear up and to knock down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.’
1 Peter 1:8-12
You did not see Jesus Christ, yet you love him; and still without seeing him, you are already filled with a joy so glorious that it cannot be described, because you believe; and you are sure of the end to which your faith looks forward, that is, the salvation of your souls.
It was this salvation that the prophets were looking and searching so hard for; their prophecies were about the grace which was to come to you. The Spirit of Christ which was in them foretold the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would come after them, and they tried to find out at what time and in what circumstances all this was to be expected. It was revealed to them that the news they brought of all the things which have now been announced to you, by those who preached to you the Good News through the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, was for you and not for themselves. Even the angels long to catch a glimpse of these things.
In the days of King Herod of Judaea there lived a priest called Zechariah who belonged to the Abijah section of the priesthood, and he had a wife, Elizabeth by name, who was a descendant of Aaron. Both were worthy in the sight of God, and scrupulously observed all the commandments and observances of the Lord. But they were childless: Elizabeth was barren and they were both getting on in years.
Now it was the turn of Zechariah’s section to serve, and he was exercising his priestly office before God when it fell to him by lot, as the ritual custom was, to enter the Lord’s sanctuary and burn incense there. And at the hour of incense the whole congregation was outside, praying.
Then there appeared to him the angel of the Lord, standing on the right of the altar of incense. The sight disturbed Zechariah and he was overcome with fear. But the angel said to him, ‘Zechariah, do not be afraid, your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth is to bear you a son and you must name him John. He will be your joy and delight and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord; he must drink no wine, no strong drink. Even from his mother’s womb he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, and he will bring back many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah, he will go before him to turn the hearts of fathers towards their children and the disobedient back to the wisdom that the virtuous have, preparing for the Lord a people fit for him.’
You did not see Jesus Christ, yet you love him
In 1953, scientists James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the structure of DNA, and with that, changed the course of scientific research for the world. Their discovery was not the product of their labour alone; for years scientists had puzzled over the factor that was responsible for heredity of traits. The predecessors of Watson and Crick had laid much groundwork and made several discoveries that enabled the eventual momentous finding to take place. Most did not live to see the eventual fulfilment of their dream.
I am using the above story as an analogy, though not a very strong one, with the Old Testament account of the prophets who had foretold the coming of Christ for thousands of years before He actually came. Although they may not have known exactly when and how the child would arrive, they persevered in paving the way to God for humanity. How marvellous and wonderful is this thing called faith, where one does not see and yet believe.
Where do we see Christ in the world today? Even when He was physically present in the world, it was not immediately apparent to John that Jesus was the one for whom he had been preparing the people. There are so many factors that can distract us from Him, and He can be easily missed if we do not pay attention. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). In order to properly discern God’s voice and follow the right shepherd, a key step would be repentance, as preached by John during his ministry.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)
Prayer: Lord, we pray that we may live out our Christian mission as priest, prophet and king.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the many faithful who have gone before us and inspired us with the hope of faith.
Fri, 24 Jun – Isaiah 49:1-6; Acts of the Apostles 13:22-26; Luke 1:57-66;80; Solmenity of the Nativity of St John the Baptist (Mass of the Day)
Sat, 25 Jun – Genesis 18:1-5; Matthew 8:5-17; World Refugee Day
Sun, 26 Jun – Genesis 14:18-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Luke 9:11-17; Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord (Corpus Christi)