Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the great Solemnity and celebration of the Nativity or the birth of St. John the Baptist, the only other person besides that of the Blessed Mother of God herself, Mary, who have their birthdays or nativities celebrated in the Church. And this highlighted the very important role which St. John the Baptist had in the history of the salvation of all mankind.
It was St. John the Baptist who was prophesied by the prophets to be the last among the prophets, for his role was to finally proclaim the coming of the salvation from God, the fulfilment of God’s long awaited plan of salvation, which would come through His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who happened to be also a relative of St. John the Baptist himself, as his mother Elizabeth was a relative of Mary, the Mother of the Lord. St. John the Baptist was the one prophesied by the prophet Isaiah to be the one who would be prepared and called from the womb of his mother to proclaim God’s salvation.
And this is linked to the equally amazing circumstances of St. John the Baptist’s birth, in which the old couple Zechariah and Elizabeth, way past childbearing age, received words from the Angel of God through Zechariah himself, at the Temple, saying that the Lord’s prophet would be born to Elizabeth. And when Zechariah doubted this, he became mute until the time when St. John was born, and when Zechariah wrote his name as spoken by the Angel of God, his tongue was loosened miraculously.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, the birth of St. John the Baptist was therefore indeed truly miraculous and as a clear show of God’s wonders and power, and a reminder of what God Himself had once done, when He made another elderly couple to be able to bear a child, namely the forefather of all the Israelites and many nations, that is Abraham and Sarah. Through his son Isaac, many nations were to be descended from Abraham as fulfilment of God’s promise to him. In the same way therefore, the birth of St. John the Baptist is the fulfilment of God’s promises through the prophets.
St. John the Baptist was the one entrusted with the difficult task of preparing the way for the coming of the Lord. He was to make straight the path for the Lord, and this was why, his renowned epithet of ‘the Baptist’ was not just to distinguish him from St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, but also to highlight his very important role in baptising the people as part of their call to repentance and turning again towards God.
St. John the Baptist was the one referred as the voice crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the path for the Lord!’ and he also called the people to repent because the kingdom of God is at hand and already near, for the Messiah was about to come. And he laboured hard, baptising many people, at least in the thousands in all probabilities if not a lot more. Many people heeded his words and call, and many among them would then go on to follow the Lord and became Christians eventually.
Yet, St. John the Baptist also encountered many challenges and obstacles in his ministry and dedication to the Lord. Just as the many prophets who came before him and as what the Lord Jesus Himself was to suffer, St. John the Baptist encountered stubborn opposition and rejection from those who refused to listen to him and believe in his words, such as many among the Pharisees who doubted him and challenged him, and questioned under what authority he had performed his baptism and works.
St. John the Baptist fearlessly struck at the Pharisees by calling them the wicked ‘brood of vipers’, those hypocrites who claimed to be faithful and looked down on others they deemed less pious and worse than them, and yet, their attitudes and actions were wicked all the same. And yet, those people refused to listen to St. John and turn back against sin and walk towards God with repentance. And with the same zeal and courage he also chastised king Herod for his immoral and illegal relations with his brother’s wife, which eventually led to his arrest, imprisonment, and finally martyrdom.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we all celebrate the birth of this great saint and servant of God, let us all remember the great faith, commitment and the great zeal and courage with which St. John the Baptist had worked for the greater glory of God. Let us all discern then, what we ourselves can do in our own communities and in our own respective areas, in our own competencies and capabilities, to follow in the footsteps of St. John the Baptist.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have been blessed to live at an era and time when the Messiah and salvation of God have been revealed to us in Christ, and by faith which we have received through the Church. Now, the Lord has also commanded us all His disciples to go forth to the nations and spread the Good News and the truth of God to all peoples and all nations. How do we then do that? That is by making sure that in our every words, deeds and actions, we shall be exemplary in all things.
Let us all be good role models of faith, just as how St. John the Baptist and all the other saints, holy men and women of God had lived their lives with faith, so that by our good examples, we may indeed show the path to our fellow brothers and sisters to the Lord. May the Lord help us and strengthen us in our faith, and help us to live ever more like our holy predecessors in all things. May God bless us all, now and always. And may St. John the Baptist, great Herald of the Lord’s coming, always pray for us all. Amen.