Jun 24 – Solemnity of the Birthday 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.’
Luke 1:57-66, 80
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.
“And his spirit matured.”
It is easy to be blindsided by ourselves in this day and age, when so much is made of what we can do, how much effort we put in and what we deserve. It is true that as humans, we are the pinnacle of creation, we can learn like no other creature and look how far we’ve come with the intellect and will to outdo all those that were before us. I shudder to think how full of myself I would be if I had been given the task that John the Baptist had. I might have said, “Well, if I hadn’t brought so many to repentance, Jesus’ time wouldn’t have come”.
But the 2nd reading tells us that John’s career ending words were, “I am not fit to undo his sandals”. I am immediately reminded of the history of the ‘Down in Adoration’. Two great men were commissioned to write the hymn for Corpus Christi, but St John of the Cross (another John), upon hearing what St Thomas Aquinas wrote, tore his version up. He didn’t say, “Maybe we can keep it and recycle the hymns, like how we have a liturgical cycle, or so that a future Pope might prefer his version.” No, he just conceded that Thomas’ was better and that was that.
So maybe the church is telling us that we should name our boys John if we want humble kids, St John Paul the Great was incredibly humble too. Ok, I’m sure it is more than just a name. In reflecting on humility, how many times have we been humble in dealing with an equal? So even someone that society says is below us, like the pantry lady, the estate cleaners, bus drivers and the list goes on. It can be easier for some of us to give all the glory to God for all good things come from him, but I feel like there are many times I have failed to give credit to the other people in my life who have helped me to get where I am, because there is no way I made it here on my own.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Daryl De Payva)
Prayer: That others may be loved more than I ,Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. That others may be esteemed more than I, that, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, that others may be chosen and I set aside, that others may be praised and I unnoticed, that others may be preferred to me in everything, that others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should. (Part of the litany of humility)
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for all the people who have helped me in my life. I take some time to pray for some people I have never prayed for before.