Birth of St. John the Baptist (Fr. Francis)
Today we are celebrating the Solemnity of the Birth of St. John the Baptist. He was the cousin of Jesus Christ and the son of Zechariah and St. Elizabeth. His father was a priest of the order of Abia whose job in the temple was to burn incense. St. Elizabeth was a descendent of Aaron. When Zechariah 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. Zechariah doubted and was struck dumb until John’s birth.
He was a prophet and began his ministry most probably at the age of 27. As a prophet, he was 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. He baptized Jesus Christ after which he stepped away and told his disciples to follow Him.
He was imprisoned by King Herod. He died a victim of the vengeance of a jealous woman. He was beheaded and his head brought to her on a platter.
We have a lot to learn today from the birth John the Baptist.
In the first place his life and ministry was totally under divine will and direction. He cued into this divine plan and direction till he died in active service. We have been called individually for specific missions. God has a plan for each and every one of us (Jer. 29:11). We are blessed and greatly too if we discover and work in accordance with God’s plan. Do not work in another person’s plan. Work with the plan God has set for you. Most people have abandoned the life they should live and are living the lives of others. You are special the way you are and God loves you that way.
We see in the life of John the Baptist humility at its best. He never arrogated to himself anything that did not pertain to him. For those who here confusing him with the messiah he said: “I am not the messiah!” (John 1:20). He went further to state that the messiah is greater than him. On the day of Christ’s baptism he also displayed a heart touching humility by asking Christ to rather baptize him. (Matt. 3:14). We are called upon to reflect humility always in our lives. One of the best ways to achieve this is to know our positions and maintain them.
Truth was the hallmark of John’s ministry. We all know that he came to bear witness to the truth. Of course our Lord is the Truth itself (Jn. 14:6). His martyrdom was entirely on account of the truth (Matt. 14:1-12). Our advertence to the truth must be in season and out of season. Truth must always be told because it exalts God.
I invite you to reflect on two things: First, John the Baptist was a prophet. When we hear the term “prophet,” not a few think that he is someone who foretells the future, like the fortune teller. The truth is that the prophet’s chief role is not to foretell but to proclaim the message of God at all times, to all people whether they like to hear it or not. The prophet is the conscience of the people. He afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted. That is why St. John the Baptist didn’t mince words. He lambasted the self-righteous Pharisees and Sadducees: “Brood of vipers, who warned you to fly from the retribution that is coming!” To the abusive soldiers, he fulminated, “Stop oppressing the people.”
Second, discover the meaning of your name. If you don’t know yet the meaning of your name, try to discover it. There must be a reason why you were named as such. If you are named after a saint, read more about his/her life’s story. This saint can be our guide and inspiration as we live our Christian life and our vocation to holiness because our God is holy. If you are not named after a saint, try to find a saint whose feast coincides with your birthday and make him/her as your patron saint. Or if you could not find any, chose a saint which you like most and make this saint as your patron saint too.
Let us be prophets like John the Baptist to proclaim the Good News of Jesus to our neighbor.
Fr. A. Francis HGN