St John the Baptist
John the Baptist is the only saint in Christendom who has his birthday observed-it precedes the birthday of Our Lord (25 December) by 6 months-in addition to his death day, 29 August, the honour being restricted to Mary (8 September) besides the Lord himself. And rightly so, for "in his birth, preaching and baptizing," says St Bede the Venerable, "he bore witness to the coming birth, preaching and baptism of Christ."
In the words of Jesus himself: "Of all the children born to women, there is no one greater than John" (Lk 7:28). Furthermore, while Jesus and Mary were conceived in grace, John, whose name means, "Yahweh is gracious", was conceived with the stain of original sin like all human beings, but was born in grace having been sanctified in the womb of his mother- ". . . . from his mother's womb he will be filled with the Holy Spirit" (Lk 1:15).
Born of a Temple priest named Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth, both old, the greatness of this saint and his pivotal place in Salvation history is further evidenced from the parallels so prominent in his birth and that of the Saviour (as seen in Luke's account)-the announcement of the Archangel Gabriel, Elizabeth past child-bearing age, Mary still a virgin, Jesus conceived in grace in the womb of Mary, herself conceived in grace, John conceived in sin but sanctified before birth, and the issue of the name.
Having played his role of preparing the way for the Messiah- "a voice crying in the wilderness: Prepare a way for the Lord. Make his paths straight" (Is 40:3)- and announcing the Messiah- "Look, there is the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world" (Jn 1:29)-he graciously fades into the background- "He must increase; I must decrease" (Jn 3:30). And finally, as part of his mission of making straight the Lord's paths, he does not hesitate to uphold the truth by way of rebuking the ruler of the land, Herod Antipas for his incestuous affair with Herodias, the wife of his half-brother Philip. The famous oath made by a drunken Herod-who obviously had a shallow sense of honour-to his illegal queen, in response to the seductive dance performed by her daughter Salome on the occasion of his birthday, had the head of the Precursor and forerunner of the Messiah rolled on to a platter to the sadistic delight of Herodias. John's mission was thus complete-he died for the Truth.
Reflection :"Jesus Christ is the truth. And so communion with him is communion of the Spirit. Have little by little, only the evangelical principles in mind, eternal truths, which in turn enlighten every other knowledge and all of life" (Blessed James Alberione).