Today, June 24th, nine months after September 23rd, we celebrate the birth of St. John the Baptist, son of Elizabeth and Zechariah, a priest. Luke tells us that “they both lived good lives in God’s sight and obeyed fully all the Lord’s laws and commands. They had no child because Elizabeth could not have any, and she and Zechariah were both very old.” (Lk 1:6-7).
On the day of atonement (September 23rd), when Zechariah was burning incense on the altar, an angel announced to him that God had heard his prayer, his wife, Elizabeth would conceive and bear a son to be named John, which means “God is gracious.” (Luke 1:8-23). Indeed Elizabeth who was considered to be barren, conceived and bore John around June 24th, six months before Jesus was born, because “nothing is impossible with God” (Lk 1:37). John’s mission was to prepare people to welcome Jesus.
Even while still in his mother’s womb, John recognized the presence of Jesus in Mary’s womb and leaped, when Mary visited Elizabeth (Luke 1:41). It is the moment when John was baptized by Jesus and cleansed of original sin. This fulfilled the angel’s promise to Zechariah, that John would be filled with the Holy Spirit even while in the womb (Luke 1:15).
John left his parents to live the life of a prophet in the desert. He preached in the desert dressed like an Old Testament prophet, wearing a garment of camel-skin and eating locusts and wild honey (Mark 1:6; Matt 3:4). He proclaimed the kingdom of God and a coming judgment; and invited people to accept baptism as a sign of their repentance. (Lk 3:7-8).
Many people repented, including tax-collectors and soldiers. John urged soldiers: Not to intimidate people! “No Extortion! Be content with your pay!” (Luke 3:14) His message spread far and wide. Mark reports that all Jerusalem and Judea made their way to him and as they were baptized in the Jordan they confessed their sins (Mark 1:5).
But John was so humble that he did not want attention on himself but directed people to Jesus. He declared that his ministry was preparing for the coming of the Messiah, “I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1:8) “He must increase, I must decrease.” (John 3:30).
When Jesus came to John asking for baptism, John recognized Jesus at once and said, “Look, there is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” (John 1:29). This sentence is repeated before Holy Communion.
John showed great courage by condemning king Herod’s adultery. This resulted in his death by beheading in prison.
John challenges us to courageously lead people to Jesus by speaking and living the truth in this age of relativism.
Elizabeth and her husband, Zachariah, lived an upright and blameless life, despite the fact that God had not given them any child. And when He gave them one, they let him go to fulfill God’s mission.
We should not take our apparent misfortunes as big tragedies. What you consider to be a tragedy might be God’s plan to promote your life, or other people’s lives. We should imitate Zechariah who remained optimistic, continuing in prayer and temple service. With God, no situation is hopeless. Let us always trust God and let His will be done!
His will now is that we receive Jesus, the Lamb of God, and take Him to others.