Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
(Isaiah 49:1-6; Acts13:22-26; Luke 1:57-66.80)
The liturgical year does not celebrate many birthdays. Only three people are honored in such a way. Jesus’ birth, of course, is remembered in December and Mary’s in September. Today John the Baptist’s birthday completes the special kind of celebration.
John’s beginnings are shrouded in wonder. His parents are beyond regular child-bearing age when he is conceived. When he is born, he is not given the customary name of his father or indeed anyone in his family. Rather he is named “John” out of obedience to God’s command. More strangely, his father begins to speak again after nine months of silence only when he affirms that name. The evangelist relates John’s story in this way to indicate his uniqueness. John will be the harbinger of the Messiah. His preaching of repentance will announce to the world that its salvation is at hand.
Enjoying the celebration of birthdays, we should take great pleasure today. John will have stern words, but his message is ultimately one of joy. He announces that Jesus is here to save us from folly. We heed John so that we may not miss the infinite goodness offered us by Jesus.