Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of Nativity of the St. John the Baptist.
In his homily for today, Pope Francis pointed us to St. John the Baptist (or as I always call him in my head “JtB”) as a fitting role model for us in our daily walk as Christians:
At the Vatican website, we find the Holy Father’s homily pointing us to St. John the Baptist’s three primary roles: preparation, discernment and diminishment.
In my morning prayer this morning, I loved the complementary nature of the first reading from Isaiah 49 and Psalm 139 with the message I’ve always perceived when I pray through the intercession of JtB: he was fashioned by God for something truly amazing.
In our family, a favorite tradition was our annual “Christmas Play”. We acted out Christ’s birth in plain clothes with Daddy taking the role as Joseph and each of us five children playing multiple roles. As the eldest girl, I portrayed Mary (much to the chagrin of my little sister Erin who was always “stuck” as Elizabeth). I always loved the moment in our little play when I (Mary) would place my hand on Erin (Elizabeth’s) belly and feel little JtB leaping for joy in her womb:
During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord* should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed* that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
Of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, Saint Augustine preached:
The Church observes the birth of John as a hallowed event. We have no such commemoration for any other fathers; but it is significant that we celebrate the birthdays of John and of Jesus. This day cannot be passed by. And even if my explanation does not match the dignity of the feast, you may still meditate on it with great depth and profit. John appears as the boundary between the two testaments, the old and the new. That he is a sort of boundary the Lord himself bears witness, when he speaks of “the law and the prophets up until John the Baptist.” Thus he represents times past and is the herald of the new era to come. As a representative of the past, he is born of aged parents; as a herald of the new era, he is declared to be a prophet while still in his mother’s womb. For when yet unborn, he leapt in his mother’s womb at the arrival of blessed Mary. In that womb he had already been designated a prophet, even before he was born; it was revealed that he was to be Christ’s precursor, before they ever saw one another. These are divine happenings, going beyond the limits of our human frailty. When John was preaching the Lord’s coming he was asked, “Who are you?” And he replied: “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” The voice is John, but the Lord “in the beginning was the Word.” John was a voice that lasted only for a time; Christ, the Word in the beginning, is eternal.
St. John the Baptist, embolden me today to use my voice and my life to point the way to Jesus Christ as you did. May I prepare, discern and diminish as I give my life to this mission. Amen
Update: Great Links from Fellow Patheos Bloggers: