Thursday, 24 June 2021 : Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the occasion of the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, celebrating the moment when St. John the Baptist, the Herald of the Messiah and the Lord was born into this world, marking the moment when God began to reveal the truth about His plans and designs for all of us. Through St. John the Baptist, God would show Himself and fulfil what He had promised to all of us, the salvation and eternal life that He has in mind for us.

St. John the Baptist had that very crucial role as the one who would reveal the Messiah to the world, and he had been prophesied since the old days of the previous prophets, as we heard in our first reading today from the Book of the prophet Isaiah. That is why his role was so important and why he has been so highly regarded in the Church, honoured as the only saint besides Mary, the Mother of God, to have his nativity or birth celebrated.

St. John the Baptist was the relative of the Lord Jesus, as Elizabeth, his mother was the cousin of Mary, the Mother of the Lord. His birth and in fact conception, was miraculous as Elizabeth was already in her old age, and she had not been able to conceive a child previously. However, to the Lord nothing indeed is impossible, just as He has been able to make Sarah, the wife of Abraham to bear a child in her old age, and how Hannah, the mother of Samuel, was able to bear him after a long time being barren.

But it is not the familial connection which made St. John the Baptist to be such an important figure, but rather his commitment, his conviction and faith, his efforts and all the time that he had spent in fulfilling the most important mission that had been entrusted to him. He dedicated himself to be the one to prepare the path for the coming of the Lord, giving himself to the ministry by which he called so many people to turn away from their sins and to embrace God’s mercy and love.

St. John the Baptist called on the people to abandon their wicked and sinful ways and to embrace God’s mercy, by calling them to be baptised with sincere heart, that through the baptism, they would come to embrace the Lord and commit themselves to abandon their wicked ways. St. John the Baptist even confronted the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who were sent to him to question his actions and his authority, and rebuked them as wicked leaders who misguided the people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. John the Baptist gave his all to the Lord, and committed himself to Him, even to stand up against rulers and kings, the powerful Pharisees and others, which cost him his freedom, brought to jail by king Herod for his rebuke of the adulterous behaviour the latter committed, and eventually, as we all know, he would die a martyr of the faith, defending his faith to the very end. This here is a most faithful servant of God, who gave his all to his Lord and Master.

Not only that, but he was also humble and upright, when he willingly let his disciples to go and follow the Lord instead of him, as he was merely the Herald, and when he saw the One Whom he was prophesying and preaching about gaining in stature and popularity, he was happy and elated rather than being jealous, unless what most other people would have done, were they in the same situation faced by St. John the Baptist, showing how he was indeed a servant of God who put God first and foremost in his life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all turn towards the Lord with a renewed faith, conviction and zeal, and with the desire to love Him and serve Him much as St. John the Baptist had done in his life. As we recall the memory of this great saint and rejoice in his Nativity today, we are all called to follow in his footsteps and to be inspired by his faith and dedication in fulfilling the mission entrusted to him by the Lord, his commitment and conviction to do all things for the greater glory of God.

Let us all therefore inspire one another to live our faith and our lives as best as we are able to, in being upright and just, in being faithful and committed in all things, just as we all have our own calling and responsibilities in life as Christians living in our world today. May all of us be good examples and inspirations to one another, that we may help each other in our journey towards the Lord. May God bless us all, in all things, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 24 June 2021 : Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 1 : 57-66, 80

When the time came for Elizabeth, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbours and relatives heard that the merciful Lord had done a wonderful thing for her, and they rejoiced with her. When, on the eighth day, they came to attend the circumcision of the child, they wanted to name him Zechariah after his father.

But his mother said, “Not so; he shall be called John.” They said to her, “But no one in your family has that name!” and they made signs to his father for the name he wanted to give him. Zechariah asked for a writing tablet, and wrote on it, “His name is John;” and they were very surprised. Immediately, Zechariah could speak again, and his first words were in praise of God.

A holy fear came on all in the neighbourhood, and throughout the hill country of Judea and the people talked about these events. All who heard of it, pondered in their minds, and wondered, “What will this child be?” For they understood that the hand of the Lord was with him.

As the child grew up, he was seen to be strong in the Spirit; and he lived in the desert, until the day when he appeared openly in Israel.

Thursday, 24 June 2021 : Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 13 : 22-26

After that time, God removed Saul and raised up David as king, to whom He bore witness saying : I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all I want him to do.

It is from the descendants of David that God has now raised up the promised Saviour of Israel, Jesus. Before He appeared, John proclaimed a baptism of repentance for all the people of Israel. As John was ending his life’s work, he said : ‘I am not what you think I am, for, after me, another One is coming, Whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.’

Brothers, children and descendants of Abraham, and you, also, who fear God, it is to you that this message of salvation has been sent.

Thursday, 24 June 2021 : Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 138 : 1-3, 13-14ab, 14c-15

O YHVH, You know me : You have scrutinised me. You know when I sit and when I rise; beforehand, You discern my thoughts. You observe my activities and times of rest; You are familiar with all my ways.

It was You Who formed my inmost part and knit me together in my mother’s womb. I thank You for these wonders You have done, and my heart praises You.

For Your marvellous deeds. Even my bones were known to You when I was being formed in secret, fashioned in the depths of the earth.

Thursday, 24 June 2021 : Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 49 : 1-6

Listen to me, o islands, pay attention, people from distant lands. YHVH called me from my mother’s womb; He pronounced my name before I was born. He made my mouth like a sharpened sword. He hid me in the shadow of His hand. He made me into a polished arrow set apart in His quiver.

He said to me, “You are Israel, My servant. Through you I will be known.” “I have laboured in vain,” I thought, “and spent my strength for nothing.” Yet what is due me was in the hand of YHVH, and my reward was with my God. I am important in the sight of YHVH, and my God is my Strength.

And now YHVH has spoken, He Who formed me in the womb to be His servant, to bring Jacob back to Him, to gather Israel to Him. He said : “It is not enough that you be My servant, to restore the tribes of Jacob, to bring back the remnant of Israel. I will make you the light of the nations, that My salvation will reach to the ends of the earth.”

Wednesday, 23 June 2021 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 1 : 5-17

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there lived a priest named Zechariah, belonging to the priestly clan of Abiah. Elizabeth, Zechariah’s wife also belonged to a priestly family. Both of them were upright in the eyes of God, and lived blamelessly, in accordance with all the laws and commands of the Lord, but they had no child. Elizabeth could not have any and now they were both very old.

Now, while Zechariah and those with him were fulfilling their office, it fell to him by lot, according to the custom of the priests, to enter the Sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. At the time of offering incense, all the people were praying outside; it was then, that an Angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. On seeing the Angel, Zechariah was deeply troubled and fear took hold of him.

But the Angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, be assured that your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you shall name him John. He will bring joy and gladness to you, and many will rejoice at his birth. This son of yours will be great in the eyes of the Lord. Listen : he shall never drink wine or strong drink; but he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb.”

“Through him, many of the people of Israel will turn to the Lord their God. He, himself, will open the way to the Lord, with the spirit and power of the prophet Elijah; he will reconcile fathers and children; and lead the disobedient to wisdom and righteousness, in order to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Wednesday, 23 June 2021 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Peter 1 : 8-12

You have not, yet, seen Him, and, yet, you love Him; even without seeing Him, you believe in Him, and experience a heavenly joy beyond all words, for you are reaching the goal of your faith : the salvation of your souls.

This was the salvation for which the prophets so eagerly looked when, in days past, they foretold the favour of God, with regard to you. But they could only investigate when the Spirit of Christ present within them, pointed out the time and the circumstances, of this – the sufferings of Christ, and the glories which would follow.

It was revealed to them, that they were working, not for themselves, but for you. Thus, in these days, after the Holy Spirit has been sent from heaven, the Gospel’s preachers have taught you these mysteries, which even the Angels long to see.

Wednesday, 23 June 2021 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 70 : 1-2, 3-4a, 5-6ab, 15ab and 17

In You, o Lord, I seek refuge; let me not be disgraced. In Your justice help me and deliver me, turn Your ear to me and save me!

Be my Rock of refuge, a Stronghold to give me safety, for You are my Rock and my Fortress. Rescue me, o my God, from the hand of the wicked.

For You, o Lord, have been my Hope, my Trust, o God, from my youth. I have relied on You from birth : from my mother’s womb You brought me forth.

My lips will proclaim Your intervention and tell of Your salvation all day, little though it is what I can understand. You have taught me from my youth and until now I proclaim Your marvels.

Wednesday, 23 June 2021 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Jeremiah 1 : 4-10

A word of YHVH came to me, “Even before I formed you in the womb I have known you; even before you were born I had set you apart, and appointed you a prophet to the nations!”

I said, “Ah, Lord YHVH! I do not know how to speak; I am still young!” But YHVH replied, “Do not say; ‘I am still young’, for now you will go, whatever be the mission I am entrusting to you, and you will speak of whatever I command you to say. Do not be afraid of them, for I will be with you to protect you – it is YHVH Who speaks!”

Then YHVH stretched out His hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “Now I have put My words in your mouth. See! Today I give you authority over nations and over kingdoms to uproot and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”

Wednesday, 24 June 2020 : Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

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.