Thursday, June 24, 1999
First Reading: Isaiah 49: 1-6
Psalms: Psalm 139: 1-3, 13-15
Second Reading: Acts 13: 22-26
Gospel Reading: Luke 1: 57-66, 80
SOLEMNITY OF THE BIRTH OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST
As the account of Luke 1: 5-80 relates, Saint John the Baptist was the son of Elizabeth and Zachariah. Elizabeth of course was the cousin of the Blessed Virgin Mary who came to help her cousin while both were pregnant. John, while in Elizabeth's womb, recognized the Divinity of the child in Mary's womb as "he leapt for joy". During this time his father Zachariah had been struck dumb because he doubted while in the temple where he beheld a vision from the Archangel Gabriel foretelling of John's role as preparing the way for the Savior. Still without voice at John's birth, the relatives and highpriests were arguing among themselves as to what this child's name should be when God gave voice back to Zachariah after he had written on a tablet for all to see: "John is his name." Indeed, as we all know, John went on to be "the voice of one crying in the wilderness. Make straight the way of the Lord." He became known as "the Baptist" or "Baptizer" because he baptized countless people, exhorting them to do penance and to amend their ways. Just as he was the precursor to Christ, his agenda was also the precursor for the Sacrament of Reconciliation which he proclaimed when he beheld Jesus at the shore of the River Jordan, "Behold the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1: 29) John was the bridge between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. In Sirach 48: 1-10 we see that he is the new Elijah. John was born in the summer when the days begin to get shorter while Jesus was born in the winter when the days begin to grow longer. This symbolism was pointed out by Saint Augustine in his writings. Because of his role in salvation, the beloved St. John the Baptist is given two feast days in the Liturgical Calendar - today and August 29th when his martyrdom by beheading is commemorated.