Every year on June 24th, Catholics celebrate the feast day of Saint John the Baptist, honoring his birth. It is a unique celebration, as Saint John is the only saint, aside from the Virgin Mary, whose birth is celebrated in the liturgy. This special observance is closely connected to the profound mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God.
The Humility of Saint John
Saint John the Baptist, as the last prophet of the Old Testament and the one who inaugurated the New Testament, played a significant role in God’s plan of salvation. The four Gospels emphasize his figure, particularly as the prophet who identified Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah, the Anointed One of the Lord. Despite his crucial role in preparing the way for Jesus, Saint John always remained humble and acknowledged the increasing prominence of Jesus in his own diminishing role.
The Witness to Truth
Even before his birth, Saint John demonstrated his unique connection to Jesus. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph #523,
“St. John the Baptist is the Lord’s immediate precursor or forerunner, sent to prepare his way. ‘Prophet of the Most High’, John surpasses all the prophets, of whom he is the last. He inaugurates the Gospel, already from his mother’s womb welcomes the coming of Christ, and rejoices in being “the friend of the bridegroom”, whom he points out as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”. Going before Jesus “in the spirit and power of Elijah”, John bears witness to Christ in his preaching, by his Baptism of conversion, and through his martyrdom.”
Pope Benedict XVI noted, the Gospels place great emphasis on Saint John the Baptist, who, as the final prophet of the Old Testament, identified Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. Saint John’s birth is intrinsically linked to the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God, making him a witness to the divine truth.
Embracing the Bizarreness of the Gospel
Saint John the Baptist’s unconventional appearance and lifestyle in the desert might have seemed peculiar to those who did not believe. However, as Pope Benedict XVI pointed out in his Angelus on June 24, 2012, Saint John’s role as the prophet who concluded the Old Testament and introduced the New Testament was of utmost significance. His distinct clothing and dietary choices served as visible signs of his commitment to proclaiming God’s message and preparing the way for Jesus, even if they appeared unusual to the outside world.
Emulating Saint John
In our own lives, we are called to be like Saint John the Baptist. We are not expected to adopt his peculiar habits, but rather to follow his example of humility and witness to the truth. Saint John’s words, “He must increase while I must decrease,” resonate deeply. They remind us to let go of our pride and self-centeredness, allowing Jesus to take center stage in our lives.
The Humanity of Jesus
A profound illustration of the relationship between Jesus and Saint John can be found in Matthew 14:22-36. This passage, as Pope Benedict XVI highlighted, shows Jesus’ humanity through his experience of grief and loss following the beheading of his cousin and friend, Saint John. Even in moments of great sadness, Jesus sought solace in prayer and demonstrated the power of faith by performing miracles.
As we celebrate the feast day of Saint John the Baptist, we are reminded of his humility and his vital role as a witness to the truth of God’s plan for salvation. Just as Saint John recognized Jesus as the Messiah, may we also embrace the divine truth in our lives and strive to emulate his humility and unwavering commitment to God. Let us allow Jesus to increase in our lives as we decrease, making room for His love and grace to transform us.