The Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist takes precedence over the ordinary Sunday which we would otherwise be celebrating. The birth of the one who prepares the way for Christ is a most significant landmark in the history of salvation.
In the first two chapters of Luke’s gospel the births of John the Baptist and of Jesus are recounted. The birth of John, from elderly parents, is an extraordinary gift of God, but will be overshadowed by the birth of Jesus, conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Luke stresses the joy which accompanies these births.
On the day of circumcision and naming extraordinary events occur. Both his mother and his father know that he is to be called ‘John’, which means ‘God is compassionate.’ John’s father, Zechariah, loses his temporary muteness once he has confirmed Elizabeth’s insight that this child will be the herald of God’s loving mercy.
The people sense something extraordinary is happening. ‘What will this child turn out to be?’ As the gospel story unfolds, John the Baptist is shown to be the herald and baptiser of the Messiah and a great preacher of the truth. The Preface from today’s feast celebrates him as ‘chosen from all the prophets to show the world its redeemer’ and as ‘found worthy of a martyr’s death, his last and greatest act of witness’.
How does John’s name encapsulate his mission?
Recall the different features of John’s unique role in the history of salvation.
Pray for a deeper acceptance of the gift of salvation heralded by John the Baptist.
Pray for the strength to imitate John’s fidelity to the truth.