Today the Church celebrates the ancient feast day in which we commemorate the birth of St. John the Baptist. Normally, the Church celebrates the day in which a saint left this world to enter our true and heavenly homeland. But today the Church celebrates the birth of St. John into this world of time.
Why would we celebrate his birthday? The only other birthdays that we celebrate are those of Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Blessed Mother Mary. St. John is that saint of whom Our Lord Himself said that “there is no man born of women greater than John the Baptist.” What made him so great? First, that he was chosen by God to be the greatest of the prophets, to be the prophet who would be the Precursor of the Messiah. Second, John was sanctified in the womb of his mother, St. Elizabeth, when he leapt for joy at the voice of Mary, recognizing the presence of his Savior and Lord. Third, St. John was the Voice who announced the Eternal Word – as St. Augustine put it: “John was a voice that lasted only for a time; Christ, the Word in the beginning, is eternal.” The Voice passes away, but the Word remains in our hearts. Finally, St. John the Baptist excelled in the virtue of humility. Here was a man who was so holy and dedicated to God, who most of the people thought might be the Messiah, and he testifies that he is not worthy to unfasten the sandals on Our Lord’s feet! St. John pointed Our Blessed Lord out to his disciples and told them that He, Jesus, was “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” and that “He must increase, and I must decrease.” He wanted his disciples to become the disciples of Jesus, the Messiah.
What lessons can we take from St. John the Baptist? Each of us has been chosen by God, we have a special place in God’s eternal plan of salvation – we may not fully understand it in this life, but we will see it clearly in the next. We are also called to be humble, to see our place and to take it – to embrace God’s call in our lives, and not to exalt ourselves but to humbly serve Jesus Christ our Lord. And we are also “voices” who are called to proclaim Our Lord Jesus and His Gospel (including the Gospel teaching on the sanctity of every human life) – we will pass away, but Jesus and His eternal message will remain! May each of us become more like St. John the Baptist, that Our Lord Jesus may be glorified in us!