June 24

St. John the Baptist

St. John the Baptist

A Son Was Promised

During the ancient times, when a king was about to visit a town subjected to his rule, the townspeople prepared for the king’s coming. This was done in order to offer the king a warm welcome to their place. This was precisely the “job” that St. John the Baptist had done.

John the Baptist was the older cousin of Jesus. He was a prophet sent by God to prepare the people for the coming of the promised Redeemer into the world. His birth can be seen in the Gospel according to Luke. His father, Zechariah, belonged to the priestly section of Abia. His mother, Elizabeth, was also a direct descendant of Aaron. Both of them lived good lives and were obedient to the Law. However, they had no child because they were both advanced in age and Elizabeth was barren.

When their section was assigned to offer in the Temple, Zechariah was chosen to burn the incense. While the incense was being offered, the angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah with the news that he and his wife would have a child. This child, the angel continues, would bring “joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of [the] Lord. He will drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord.” (Luke 1:14-17). Adding to this, the angel told him that the child’s name should be “John”.

Zechariah doubted the angel’s message, and for that, he became mute. Soon enough, Elizabeth bore a child. Nine months later, she gave birth to a baby boy. Their relatives were confused when Elizabeth told them that the boy’s name would be “John”. So they asked Zechariah, who asked for something to write on with, and he wrote “John is his name” (Luke 1:63). All were amazed because Zechariah was able to speak again.

The Lord’s Forerunner in Life and in Death

After the account of his birth, John’s early life was untold in the Gospels. Some years later, John began his mission. He preached about repentance for the people’s sins and to “prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths” (Luke 3:4). He baptized those who heeded his preaching in the Jordan River. Some of those who had heard him thought that he was the Messiah, to which he replied “I am not the Messiah” (John 1:20). He baptized Jesus as the inauguration of His mission.

Besides his powerful words for the need of repentance, John also denounced King Herod’s evil act. He was married to Herodias, his brother’s wife. This was a great sin because Herod’s brother was still living. Bearing grudges against John, Herodias demanded that he be arrested. And thus, it happened.

Since then, Herodias found opportunities to have John killed. One day, Herod hosted a banquet for his friends and guests. Herodias had her daughter dance for Herod. Herod was so overjoyed with the woman’s performance that he promised that he would give anything, even half of his kingdom, to Herodias’ daughter. At Herodias’ bidding, her daughter asked for John the Baptists’ head on a platter. Herod was shocked at the girl’s request, but since he swore before his guests, he dispatched an executioner and had John the Baptist beheaded. Truly, he was Christ’s forerunner in life and in death.

5 Interesting Facts About St. John the Baptist

  1. St. John the Baptist is the patron saint of Jordan, Puerto Rico, French Canada and many other places.
  2. Aside from Jesus’ and Mary’s birthdays (December 25 and September 8 respectively), the Church also celebrates the birth of St. John the Baptist on June 24. No other saint was given such an honor by the Church.
  3. The Church also commemorates St John the Baptist’s Passion or martyrdom on August 29.
  4. The name “John” is derived from the Hebrew name [יוֹחָנָן]{dir=”rtl”} (Yochanan) which means “Yahweh is gracious”.
  5. The Church considers St. John the Baptist as the last and the greatest among the prophets prior to Jesus’ coming.

Prayer to St. John the Baptist

O God, who raised up Saint John the Baptistto make ready a nation fit for Christ the Lord,give your people, we pray,the grace of spiritual joysand direct the hearts of all the faithfulinto the way of salvation and peace.Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,one God, for ever and ever. Amen.