Sunday, June 24
Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
Luke 1:57-66, 80
When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child
she gave birth to a son.
Her neighbors and relatives heard
that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her,
and they rejoiced with her.
When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child,
they were going to call him Zechariah after his father,
but his mother said in reply,
“No. He will be called John.”
But they answered her,
“There is no one among your relatives who has this name.”
So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.
He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,”
and all were amazed.
Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed,
and he spoke blessing God.
Then fear came upon all their neighbors,
and all these matters were discussed
throughout the hill country of Judea.
All who heard these things took them to heart, saying,
“What, then, will this child be?”
For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.
The child grew and became strong in spirit,
and he was in the desert until the day
of his manifestation to Israel.
We celebrate the birth of John the Baptist today. It is a solemnity and as such this feast supersedes the Sunday in Ordinary time for today’s readings. That should give you one indicator as to how important the Church regards St John the Baptist. On another note, we usually celebrate saints’ feasts on the dates of their death. This is the feast of St John’s birth – a rarity along with few others such as Jesus’ and Mary’s births. We also celebrate St John the Baptist’s death on August 29th. John is special to the Church as he belongs to both the Old and the New Testaments. Jesus praises John’s greatness but at the same time Jesus teaches us that even the least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he. John knew who Jesus was and tells us that he is not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. John never experiences Jesus as the Risen Lord, a privilege denied the one who baptized him and yet given to all of us who are baptized since. Even at the height of his popularity John himself reminds us that Jesus must increase while he himself must decrease.
John the Baptist’s life can have a special meaning for all of us. We are, through our baptism, also called to be preachers of the Lord. Our baptism imposes on us an obligation to share our faith and to give witness to Jesus, both in word and in action. Our lives are meant to send out an invitation to come and join us and share our experience of faith, love, and fellowship. If we are honest, we know that we do not do that nearly enough and can often give an opposite message altogether. The signals we send out as individuals, as families, and as a parish are really the way we might find meaning in our lives.
Let us ask John the Baptist today to help us make clear a path in our lives to draw others closer to knowing and experiencing the Christ through the Gospels.
Deacon Don Poirier