In the Catholic Church, the Feast day of a Saint is normally the day of his/her actual death (born to eternal life). However, Saint John the Baptist is honoured with two Feast days: the Birthday (June 24) and the Beheading (August 29). This Sunday, as we celebrate his Birthday, let’s try to understand something about John the Baptist.
In the Gospel of Saint Luke, the annunciation story to Zechariah is described with details (Luke 1: 5-25). The story tells us that John the Baptist had been chosen by God before he was born. In Hebrew, John means “God is gracious”. Surely, God is gracious in bestowing his grace up on Elizabeth and Zachariah. More importantly, God is gracious when He sends John into the world as a witness to testify to the Light – Jesus Christ (John 1:6). John comes to prepare our hearts so that we will be made worthy to receive Christ into our lives.
The life of Saint John the Baptist is tied to the life of the Son of God: John proclaims the Good News, and Jesus is the Good News; John repeats God’s promise and Jesus brings God’s promise to fulfilment; John calls to penance and Jesus brings forgiveness; John prepares the way and Jesus is the Way; John baptises with water and Jesus baptises with the Holy Spirit and He completes Baptism with His Body and Blood.
John the Baptist is the only prophet who shows to all humankind that the Saviour is Jesus Christ when he proclaims: “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). He also acknowledges that he must become less and Jesus must become greater (John 3:30). These challenge us to bring the Good News to others, at home, at workplace, at school and wherever we might be. Also we are invited to be humbled before God. Do we really let God become greater than ourselves and everything else, or do we let the darkness of sin and selfishness invade our life? Does the Cross become the source of life for us or do we try to avoid it? Driving back hatred, selfishness, resentment and our ego, etc… is a way that enables us to let God become greater and to bring God to our fellow brothers and sisters.