This Sunday we celebrate the feast of the birthday of St. John the Baptist also known as the forerunner who pointed the people of his time to the coming of Jesus. A desert prophet, he was outstanding for vigour, discipline and humility
The narrative of the Baptist’s birth revolved around the miraculous. An elderly couple could not have children, yet an angel told Zechariah, that his prayer had been answered. Zechariah was incredulous, so he was struck incapable of speech. But the couple did conceive a son. When Mary visited the boy’s mother, Elizabeth, the Spirit filled the boy when in the womb. Now, with the birth of the child, miracles would happen again. With the proclamation of the boy’s name, Zechariah regained his power of speech, only to praise God over and over. When speech was restored to Zechariah, he praised God to affirm his faith in the heavenly message he was given. In other words, Luke highlighted the movement of the Spirit over the parochial concerns of the immediate community. God, not humans, would guide events.
When John began final preparations for his mission, he withdrew into the harsh, rocky desert beyond the Jordan to fast and pray. When he came back to start preaching in the villages of Judaea, he was haggard and uncouth, but his eyes burned with zeal and his voice carried deep conviction. The Jews were accustomed to preachers and prophets who gave no thought to outward appearances, and they accepted John at once. So great was the power emanating from the holy man that after hearing him many believed he was indeed the long-awaited Messiah. John quickly put them right, saying he had come only to prepare the way, and that he was not worthy to unloose the Master’s sandals. His humility remained incorruptible even when his fame spread to Jerusalem and members of the higher priesthood came to make inquiries and to hear him. “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,”-this was John’s oft-repeated theme. John the Baptist was the first of the New Testament Prophets, the very first of the witnesses to Christ. There is always a need for prophets in the Church and God has not been neglectful in providing them. There are people in our own day who speak up for Christ.
We may not consider ourselves saints but each of us can make a great impression on the world in our own way guided by the faith we profess. The message of salvation that John the Baptist preached to his people is meant for us too. We receive the salvation Christ won for us but we are also called like John to be heralds of salvation as we live lives of faith. May we be the people who point towards Jesus and tell those around us there is the Son of God let us follow him for he is the way the truth and the life.