Reflection on the Birthday of John the Baptist

by Fr D Mazibuko OSM

This Feast is held even on a Sunday indicating the unique role of John the Baptist as herald of the Messiah. Just like when we celebration of Christ begins with a Vigil Mass with special readings so does this Sunday. As a Church we celebrate the birth of John the Baptist on the 24th of June and on the 29th of August, we celebrate his martyrdom. John the Baptist is the precursor of Christ. His birth is announced by the Angel Gabriel. In the New Testament John the Baptist bears witness to Christ so much so that when Jesus arrives he proclaims as the “lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world”. Misunderstood by many John the Baptist fulfilled his mission announcing an era that would be brought about by Christ. Today as a Church, as families let us celebrate his birth and all who bear the name John and all who were born on this day.

1st reading                                   Isaiah 49:1-6

This reading is from the second part of the four Messianic Songs of the Servant of Yahweh. They refer to Jesus. However, in today’ s context, they have a bearing on John the Baptist who is the precursor of Christ. Reading closely we see that they refer to John the Baptist for he [John the Baptist] was indeed the servant who revealed/manifested God’s glory , His mission is clearly defined for him even before his birth, His name is announced before his birth by an Angel, the same Angel that announces the birth of Jesus. John the Baptist gathers people from every corner through his preaching. His baptism is that of forgiveness of sins, a spiritual rebirth and prepares the people to await the Messiah. IN FACT, John the Baptist enshrines all the features of a Messiah; no wonder people thought he was the Messiah. Is that not what all Baptised Christians are called be like today?

2nd reading                                 Acts 13:22-26

St Paul’s preaching seems to bring fulfilment to the longings of the people of Israel who were God’s chosen people. St Paul preaches to the Jewish people in a strong way the coming of the Messiah. Off course this refers to the second coming. The people are to vigorously prepare themselves for this moment. This ties in well with the theme of this Sunday. And in a particular way, the preparation is not reserved for the Jews but for ALL, including ourselves. Just as John prepared a way for the coming of the Messiah and St Paul preached about his second coming and the need to prepare for it, let us celebrate this day by indeed preparing a way for the Lord in our hearts by welcoming him when he comes to us through His Word.

Gospel                                           Lk 1:57-66.80

In today’s gospel, the miraculous birth of John the Baptist is recounted in detail. Like Jesus, John’s name is given by the Angel. This was unheard off. At the pronouncement of the child’s name, Zechariah receives his speech back previously taken from him for lack of faith. His immediate words are stupendous but are omitted from today’s readings. Unlike the first reading the gospel talks directly about John the Baptist. But do we have to celebrate this feast? I believe John’s message was and remains relevant today. John the Baptist’s main message was Preparation for the Lord’s way. I cannot help but note that preparation is not only an activity that is reserved for us as humans alone. God also prepared a way through John the Baptist. God is always at work preparing for our salvation. God is always preparing us for our re-birth. The challenge is on us to reciprocate God’s effort to save us. All God wants for us is to live in peace.