Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist – The Prophet of Prophets
Readings: 1st: Is: 49:1-6; Ps 138; 2nd: Acts 13: 22-26; Gos: Lk 1: 57-66.80
This brief reflection was written by Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a member of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans). He is a missionary in Puerto Rico, the island of enchantment. He is the Chancellor of the Dioceses of Fajardo-Humacao, Puerto Rico; the Parish Priest of Parroquia la Resurrección del Senor, Canovanas and the Major Superior of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans), Circumscription of Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic. For more details and comments contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
Today, the Holy Mother Church celebrates the solemnity of the nativity of a great prophet and role model, John the Baptist. He is popularly known as the forerunner of Christ. His birth marked the end of an old prophetic era, as well as the beginning of a new one. He was the link between the Old and the New Testament. So, he is known as “the Bridge.”
In today’s first reading, the prophet Isaiah recounts his call to the prophetic ministry. He announced: “The Lord called me before I was born.” He freely and obediently responded to this call, and carried it out in spite of all odds against him.
One remarkable point that Isaiah highlighted in the account of his call and mission is that God equips and protects those he called until they have accomplished his mission. This is the account of Isaiah: “He made of me a sharp-edged sword and concealed me in the shadow of his arm. He made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me.”
We see this in the lives of all the true prophets. Nothing could stop them until they have fulfilled the will of God. As a great prophet, he set the pace for his successors including John the Baptist whose birthday we celebrate today.
The second reading reminds us of the important role that John played in the history of our salvation. He was not the messiah but, he was the one specially chosen by God to be the herald of the Messiah. He prepared the way for his coming.
Luke highlighted a very important virtue displayed by John the Baptist at the beginning of his ministry. This was his humility. He announced before hand: “I am not the one you imagine me to be. That one is coming after me and I am not fit to untie his sandal.” He knew what he was called to do, and he simply did it. He was truthful about his mission.
Though, he was held in a very high esteem by his disciples, he humbled himself as a servant. He knew his place and mission right from his mother’s womb. During his divine encounter with Christ in the Mary’s womb, he humbly adored Him by leaping for Joy (Lk 1:41).
John the Baptist knew he was only a servant and a messenger sent to prepare the way. So, his message was simple but powerful. When Christ eventually came, he humbly presented him to his disciples and the world: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (Jn 1: 19). He has completed his mission. So, he was not bothered when his disciples abandoned him to follow the messiah. He lived what he preached and died for it.
Today’s Gospel recounts the mystery of the naming of this great prophet. God, and his parents agreed that his name is John. According to his relatives this name was out of tradition: “No one in your family has that name.” This is the beginning and real the sign that something different was about to happen. Also, the instant healing of his father’s dumbness proved this.
John the Baptist, a prophet like no other with a rare name, and a special mission has been born. He was a courageous figure who announced the good news of repentance and salvation to the world without fear of being castigated. He is the role model of all of us who have been called to stand for, and preach the truth without prejudice or fear of losing their own lives. No one could stop him, and no one can stop us, if we trust in God as he did.
John means “Yahweh is gracious.” Of course, he was a gift not only to his parents considered to be barren for a long time, but to the entire world that he came to announce the imminence of the messiah. Like his predecessor Isaiah, the hand of the Lord was upon him and his mision was a success.
So, today let us ask to God to grant us the humility, courage and resilience of this great prophet of prophets, especially, at this time more then ever before, when the world looks up to us to be prophetic in our call. Also, let us ask God to help us, so that our own birth would be a blessing to our world.
Peace be with you!