Jun 24 – 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.
“He spoke and praised God”
We have 2 children in their teenage years. When they were little, we did everything for them — feeding, cleaning and changing their clothes. Their needs were fully met by us, and if we missed their ‘cues’, they would have to go without.
As they grew up, we allowed them to do simple things, such as ordering their own food at the hawker centre, or running other simple errands. I remember the first times they did that; we started out by bringing them together, showing them how to place the orders. They soon progressed to doing it on their own, with us casting sereptitious glances to make sure they were ok.
So it is, with the early prophets, that our God chose to deliver His message to His people. While some of these prophets started out unsure, they soon came to the knowledge and confidence that their God was watching over them, that they would be shown what, and when to do.
Today, we celebrate the birthday of St John the Baptist, whose parents were Zechariah and Elizabeth, the latter whom our Mother Mary rushed to help upon hearing of her pregnancy. St John is literally the prophet that links the Old and New Testaments.
St John was one of the most fiery and fervent evangelists and we get a hint of where this faithfulness came from. In today’s Gospel, we get an idea about what kind of family environment Zechariah and Elizabeth allowed St John to grow in.
For one, we read about how Zechariah was quietly supportive of Elizabeth’s decision to name the baby “John”, in spite of the objections displayed by the others. Another important factor we see is how Zechariah praised and worshipped God, a trait and practice I am sure St John continued, and which deeply influenched him.
Let us pray that we may learn from the faith and examples of St John, Zechariah and Elizabeth.
(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)
Prayer: Father God, we pray that we will learn from the faith and examples of those who have walked the way, especially Your prophets.
Thanksgiving: We praise You and thank You Father, for always watching over us; for always being there for us.