The Nativity of St. John the Baptist

John the Baptist. It is amazing that throughout the centuries, the Catholic church perpetually remembers Saint John the Baptist’s birthday. You may be asking yourself what is so important about John the Baptist that we honour his birth? We honour Jesus’ birth at Christmas and Mary’s birth on the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but why John the Baptist? Well, if you remember, Jesus said: “I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John” (Lk 7:28). Jesus honoured John above all other men and so it is fitting that we honour him too.

Elizabeth was Mary’s cousin and Zachary was a priest of the Temple in Jerusalem. As a baby in the womb, John recognized Jesus’ presence in Mary’s womb when Mary visited Elizabeth soon after the Annunciation. Both women were pregnant at the same time.

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 until about A.D. 27. 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 John to be baptized, John recognized Jesus as the Messiah and baptized Him, saying: “It is I who need baptism from you.”

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.

Perhaps John’s idea of the coming of the Kingdom of God was not being perfectly fulfilled in the public ministry of Jesus. For whatever reason, when he was in prison he sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the Messiah. Jesus’ answer showed that the Messiah was to be a figure like that of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah. John himself would share in the pattern of messianic suffering, losing his life to the revenge of Herodias.

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