Today, June 24, we celebrate the *Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist.*
For the Church, this is a special day—one of the only feast days of a saint falling on the date of birth, rather than the date on which the saint died. Ordinarily the Church observes the day of a saint’s death as his feast, because that day marks his entrance into heaven.
To this rule there are two notable exceptions, the birthdays of Blessed Mary and of St. John the Baptist. All other persons were stained with original sin at birth. John was cleansed of original sin in the womb of his mother, jumping for joy at the greeting of Mary to Elizabeth during her visitation.
Saint John the Baptist is the Precursor of Christ, the forerunner of the Son of Justice, the minister of baptism of Jesus. His birth prepared the way for the coming of Our Lord and Savior, for the coming of salvation for all. John was born to Elizabeth, the “cousin” of Mary, and Zechariah, an elderly man and priest at the Temple of Jerusalem. According to the Gospel of Luke, John’s birth was foretold by the angel Gabriel to Zechariah while he was at work in the Temple.
John left his father’s home and began a life of mortification and penance, wearing a camel-hair shirt, and sustaining his body with locusts and honey. Soon, he gained fame as a pious and holy man, and people flocked to him for baptism in the river. He preached reformation of life.
Jesus called John the greatest of all those who had preceded him, saying: “I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John….” But John would have agreed completely with what Jesus added: “Yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” (Luke 7:28).
Saint John lived the words “He must increase; I must decrease,” (John 3:30) , believing them to be the core of his being. His purpose was to prepare the way for Jesus. John recognized his role, his insignificance in comparison to the greatness of Christ, and proclaimed himself unworthy to even carry the sandals of Jesus.
*St. John the Baptist, pray for us*.