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The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist


“The Lord called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name. He made of me a sharp-edged sword and concealed me in the shadow of his arm.” ~ Isaiah 49:2

Today’s 1st Reading (Isaiah 49:1-16), one of the four “Servant Songs” from the Book of Isaiah, is considered to be an Old Testament foreshadowing of Jesus. Reading through it, one can easily see why. Similarly, one could also rather easily see the logic in selecting this passage today, on this the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist. In the quote that kicks off today’s reflection for instance, we read that “from my mother’s womb he gave me my name,” a matter that, as it relates to the selection of John the Baptist’s name, is fleshed out in today’s Gospel Passage (Luke 1:57-66, 80).

“It is too little for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel,” the Lord tells Isaiah in the closing words of today’s passage in what is another nod to John, going on to make this promise:

“I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach the ends of the earth.”

“Beloved: Although you have not seen Jesus Christ you love him; even though you do not see him now yet believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” These are the words of Peter In the 2nd Reading chosen for last night’s Vigil Celebration (1 Peter 1:8-12). The reader can’t help but reflect upon that seminal moment during the Visitation when John leapt in his mother Elizabeth’s womb when he found himself in the presence of the Virgin Mary, who at the time was pregnant with a Jesus. God’s plan for John the Baptist reflects in part today’s Responsorial Psalm, “since my mother’s womb, you have been my strength.” (Psalm 71).

“Make straight the way of the Lord!” was John’s proclamation, this “voice crying out in the wilderness.” (John 1:23). He knew that Jesus was not just one more biblical figure. He was something radically and altogether different. Not merely a speaker of the Word, but the Word himself. We are all called in our own way to bring this message into the world. Yesterday I quoted Robert Cardinal Sarah on this matter and I believe his words, in part, bear repeating. “Your mission is not to save a dying world,” he explains. “Your mission is to live out with fidelity and without compromise the faith you received from Christ. In that way, even without realizing it, you will save the heritage of many centuries of faith.“

Yes, we too are called from birth and given a special name and a special mission (Luke 1:5-20, 57-66, Isaiah 49:1). We are called to tell others about the God who has saved us, the God who fights for us. The God who loves us unconditionally, regardless of our past and in spite of our flaws.,The God who makes all the difference in our life. Despair, hopelessness, death....they have no power over a true child of God. Shouldn’t the rest of the world know that?

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O God, who raised up Saint John the Baptist to make ready a nation fit for Christ the Lord, give your people, we pray, the grace of spiritual joys and direct the hearts of all the faithful into the way of salvation and peace.” ~ Amen

For more on Saint John the Baptist and his vital role in our Christian Salvation story, please revisit these older Reflections:

Saint John the Baptist, pray for us


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