Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, Thursday June 24.
Meaning of the celebration (with Meditation)
In the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church, June 24 marks the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist also known as the Nativity of St John the Forerunner.
About his Life
Saint John enjoys this special privilege, that his birthday is honored in the Church as is that of Jesus Christ.
Saint Bernard once mentioned that the reason for this great honor is that he was holy from the time he was born, because he was sanctified in his mother’s womb by Jesus Christ when the Most Blessed Virgin went to visit Saint Elizabeth. (1)
The Sanctity of Saint John the Baptist
Saint John the baptist was so closely united to Jesus Christ, having been chosen by the Almighty God to be his precursor/forerunner, (2) it was most befitting that he be elevated to a level of grace above that granted to other people and that his holiness be evident even at his birth. This is the reason Our Lord Jesus Christ himself said that amongst all people there was “none greater than John the Baptist.” (3) In union with the Church, we honor the nativity of Saint John the Baptist as the beginning of his sanctity and also the sanctification of so many. We were not born saints, neither were we born without original sin, so let us pray that the second birth that we received when we were brought to the world may be for us the beginning of our sanctification.
As Saint Leo warned, in his words “let us pray that we not do fall back into the degradation of our first birth by conduct inconsistent with the state we have embraced.”
Saint John was holy by the life he chose to lead. When he could barely walk, he went into the wilderness to live detached from everyone and the frivolities of life. Although his father and his mother were so holy and detached from the world, thier piety did not seem to him, an adequate model of what God asked of him. Hence he went out to discover from God, in seclusion and through fervent practice of prayer, what manner of life ought to be his. He practiced an extraordinary austerity, living only on locusts and wild honey as was mentioned in the scripture (5) to attain the level of sanctity God asked of him.
By so doing, he constantly preached penance. (6) The guaranteed way to preach repentance and penance successfully is to practice it actively.
The Church, in “the liturgy of hours” , gives us another reason for the seclusion and the mortification of this Saint, namely, the fear of tainting his soul with the slightest sin. These were also the two major reasons that ought to engage you to live apart from the world and to maintain wise and regulated behaviour.
By living a penitential life in the wilderness until he was thirty years old, Saint John the Baptist prepared to preach in a holy way. In the same vein, says the Gospel, the Lord put his words into John’s mouth, and at once he went out to all the country around the Jordan, preaching repentance, penance for the remission of sins. (7)
All the people came to him, even publicans and soldiers, and he told them what they needed to do in order to be saved. (8) So many people went to him heed his advice to embrace repentance and reconcile with God. The manner he lived his life drew people constantly to him and also enabled him to win people’s hearts easily. He was also able to convince them to do penance for their sins.
In your everyday life, you are obliged to announce the truths of the Gospel every day. Live your life as a good Christian model before you teach them to others. In as much as you may not have the grace, like Saint John the Baptist, of being the forerunner of Jesus Christ, you do possess the grace of being a successor in his ministry.
Be assured, however, that you will make this effective for others only after it has produced its positive effect in you. See that it does so without delay.
On June 24 the summer solstice was celebrated in ancient times by lighting fires to honor the sun. (The summer solstice is generally reckoned on or about June 22.) The Catholic Church fixed the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist on this day apparently because Jesus Christ called him a burning and shining light (John 5:35), and the Church wanted to substitute the celebration of John’s birthday for the pagan rites. Just to show how special he was the only other saint in the Catholic Church whose birthday is a feast of the Church is Mary, Mother of God.
- Lk 1:39–44
- Lk 1:17
- Mt 11:11
- Lk 1:80
- Mk 1:6
- Mk 1:4
- Lk 3:2–3
- Lk 3:10–14