24 June – The Birthday of St John the Baptist
Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist
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
Islands, listen to me,
pay attention, remotest peoples.
The Lord called me before I was born,
from my mother’s womb he pronounced my name.
He made my mouth a sharp sword,
and hid me in the shadow of his hand.
He made me into a sharpened arrow,
and concealed me in his quiver.
He said to me, ‘You are my servant (Israel)
in whom I shall be glorified’;
while I was thinking, ‘I have toiled in vain,
I have exhausted myself for nothing’;
and all the while my cause was with the Lord,
my reward with my God.
I was honoured in the eyes of the Lord,
my God was my strength.
And now the Lord has spoken,
he who formed me in the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him,
to gather Israel to him:
‘It is not enough for you to be my servant,
to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel;
I will make you the light of the nations
so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.’
Paul said: ‘God deposed Saul and made David their king, of whom he approved in these words, “I have selected David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, who will carry out my whole purpose.” To keep his promise, God has raised up for Israel one of David’s descendants, Jesus, as Saviour, whose coming was heralded by John when he proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the whole people of Israel. Before John ended his career he said, “I am not the one you imagine me to be; that one is coming after me and I am not fit to undo his sandal.”
‘My brothers, sons of Abraham’s race, and all you who fear God, this message of salvation is meant for you.’
The time came for Elizabeth to have her child, and she gave birth to a son; and when her neighbours and relations heard that the Lord had shown her so great a kindness, they shared her joy.
Now on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother spoke up. ‘No,’ she said ‘he is to be called John.’ They said to her, ‘But no one in your family has that name’, and made signs to his father to find out what he wanted him called. The father asked for a writing-tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ And they were all astonished. At that instant his power of speech returned and he spoke and praised God. All their neighbours were filled with awe and the whole affair was talked about throughout the hill country of Judaea. All those who heard of it treasured it in their hearts. ‘What will this child turn out to be?’ they wondered. And indeed the hand of the Lord was with him.
Meanwhile the child grew up and his spirit matured. And he lived out in the wilderness until the day he appeared openly to Israel.
“You shall go ahead of the Lord to prepare His ways before him”
I have mentioned previously that I grew up in a household that was less than well-to-do and we were always running short of money. It was always my goal to be totally financially successful. I wanted to be rich and be recognized as someone clever and powerful. In the corporate world, I would work hard to be seen as the best, so that I could attain the highest corporate title or job that I could obtain.
John the Baptist, on the other hand, lived his life knowing that he would spend his time preparing to herald the arrival of Jesus’ ministry. It was John, in fact, who recognized the divinity of our Lord Jesus by leaping with JOY in his mother, Elizabeth’s, womb.
I find John to be one the best models to be a great Christian. He prepared for the arrival of Christ in a couple of ways. Firstly, John prepared the way for Jesus by preaching about the repentance of sin. He spoke out against sin without fear. Secondly, John also baptized the masses in addition to getting them to repent of their sins. In fact, it was John who baptized Jesus. In true humility, John originally declined to baptize our Lord, saying that he himself, should be baptized by Jesus instead.
Like John, we should be unafraid when proclaiming about our Lord. We need to be able to share our faith and to also step up to correct others when we seeing wrongdoings.
(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)
Prayer – Father, help us to be like St John the Baptist, Your faithful servant. May we be as brave and courageous in proclaiming about our faith in You. Help us to also be as joyful when we do so.
Thanksgiving – Thank you for giving us a strong role model in St John. Thank you for giving us joy in our relationship with You and Your Son, Jesus.