Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
(Isaiah 49:1-6; Acts 13:22-26; Luke 1:57-66.80)
The Gospel according to Luke tells that the angel Gabriel appears to Mary when Elizabeth’s pregnancy is in its sixth month. For this reason the Church places the births of Jesus and John the Baptist six months apart. More ingenious is the date of placement and the reason behind it. Jesus’ and John’s births are put at the winter and summer solstices, respectively, because they refer to light. Jesus is the prophetic light shining in darkness. John proclaims in the gospel that he must decrease while Jesus must increase (John 3:30) – a reality reflected in the beginning of daylight’s decline in June and the start of its increase in December (in the northern hemisphere).
John anticipates Jesus. He calls him the prophet who is to bring about God’s judgment. He may even consider the coming of Jesus more turbulent than it proves to be when he says that Jesus would burn chaff with unquenchable fire. As much as he anticipates Jesus, John also models how Jesus is to be followed. Like John, we are not to deny or avoid the truth confronting us, however painful it may be. John denounces Herod Antipas’ wickedness just as Jesus challenges the treachery of the people’s leadership. Like them we face difficulty trusting in God’s care. Also, like John we recognize how we are not to seek our own glory but to act so that the world may know and love the Lord.