June 24: The Birth of St. John the Baptist

On this Feast of the Birth of St. John the Baptist, we remember that he spent his entire adult life preparing the way for Jesus, and proclaiming that “the Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand.” He was born to Zechariah  and Elizabeth, an elderly married couple. The Angel Gabriel had visited Zechariah and told him that his wife would bear a child, even though she was already past the child-bearing age. Elizabeth, we recall, was Mary’s cousin and Zechariah was a priest of the Temple in Jerusalem. As St. Luke’s Gospel points out, as a baby in the womb, St. John recognized Jesus’ presence in Mary’s womb when Mary visited Elizabeth soon after the Annunciation. Both women were pregnant at the same time.

St. John was probably born at Ain-Karim, which is southwest of Jerusalem. As a young adult, he lived as a hermit in the desert of Judea. When he was 30, he began to preach on the banks of the Jordan, calling for repentance and baptizing people in the river waters. When Jesus came to him to be baptized, St. John recognized Jesus as the Messiah and Baptized Him, saying: “It is I who need baptism from you.” St. John continued to preach after Jesus was Baptized, but was imprisoned not long after by Herod Antipas, after he denounced the king’s adulterous marriage with Herodias, wife of his half-brother Philip. John was beheaded at the request of Salome, daughter of Herodias.

Thanks be to God, many came to know Jesus through St. John, namely the Apostles St. Andrew and St. John. Who will come to know Jesus through us today?


Let us pray. “O God, grant that your family may walk in the way of salvation and, attentive to what Saint John the Precursor urged, may come safely to the One he foretold, our Lord Jesus Christ. Who lives and reigns with you for ever and ever. Amen.”


St. John the Baptist played a unique role in the history of God’s people. He acted as the bridge between the Hebrew and Christian Testaments. He basically belongs to the former, but was present at the beginnings of the latter. At the same time, he died before Jesus had completed His work and before the Church came into existence.

Jesus praised the Baptist’s greatness, but at the same time said that even the least in the Kingdom was greater than he. While he knew and proclaimed Jesus as the one that all were waiting for and the thongs of whose sandals he was not worthy to loosen, he never witness Jesus as his “Risen Lord,” a privilege granted to the very least of the Baptized.

St. John’s primary title is “Precursor.” His mission was to go ahead of the Messiah and proclaim His coming. As he said modestly himself, Jesus must increase while he himself must decrease. And that is still the role of the Christian believer today – to point others in the direction of the Messiah.


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