We only celebrate three birthdays according to the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church: first, the birth of Jesus Christ, December 25th; the birth of the Virgin Mary, September 8th; and today, June 24th, the birth of St. John the Baptist. We celebrate his birthday because of his great importance in the plan of God. He was the last prophet of the Old Testament and the first prophet of the New Testament as he announced the coming of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
St. John was prepared for his ministry by the visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to his mother Elizabeth. We recall that when Mary greeted Elizabeth, John leaped for joy in his mother’s womb. Of this event, a Bible commentary states the following: “Although he was conceived in sin like other men, St. John the Baptist was born sinless because he was sanctified in his mother’s womb by the presence of Jesus Christ (then in Mary’s womb). On receiving this grace of God St. John rejoices by leaping with joy__ thereby fulfilling the Archangel’s prophesy, “…and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.” Lk 1:15
The birth of John the Baptist was similar to the births of other prophets and holy people called to be a part of God’s salvation plan by the fact that his parents were childless and had reached an age beyond child bearing years. Here we recall the words of Jesus, “…for God all things are possible.” Mt 19:26. All things are possible for God, but they must serve the purpose of the “coming of the kingdom”.
We might see John as having a difficult life, living in the wilderness eating locust and wild honey, however he knew his purpose. Because he faithfully fulfilled his purpose, Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, among those born of woman there has been none greater than John the Baptist.”
His only purpose was to prepare the way for the Lord by baptizing with water and preaching repentance. As John was becoming popular with those who were willing to repent, Jesus came to him to be baptized in the River Jordan. At that point his disciples began to leave him and follow Jesus. John’s response was, “He must increase, I must decrease.” Jn 3:30
Although we are probably not called to live a life like John in the wilderness with his meager diet, we are all called to bear witness to Jesus Christ. We did not receive the Holy Spirit in our mother’s womb, but we did receive the same Spirit in baptism. We not only received the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we also received the Virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity which connect us intimately with God and we exercise our baptismal priesthood by participating in Christ’s mission as priest, prophet and king.
We participate in the priesthood of Christ by being united to him in our prayers and sacrifices, especially in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We fulfill our role as prophet by being faithful to what God has revealed to us through His Church and the Scriptures. The truth is prophetic in every age and will win for us friends and enemies just as it did for John. The truth is necessary for our happiness now and for all eternity. We share in the kingship of Christ by being obedient to the will of the Father as Jesus was and by serving God and neighbor. Jesus said, “I came not to be served, but to serve.”
Through our baptism and our participation in the life of the Church we have all we need to discover our true purpose and be a faithful follower of Our Lord. Of course like John we must choose to repent; to overcome sin and grow in virtue. In our prayer we should ask John the Baptist to help us to be heroic in living out our Christian faith and to have great zeal in sharing our faith with others. As we become spiritually mature, like John we should be able to say, “He must increase, I must decrease.”
In a few minutes we will be receiving the Lord Jesus in Holy Communion. We pray that we will have a profound awareness of his Presence which will move us to find our purpose in him.
“Answering Christ’s call, we guide people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life.”