Celebrating John the Baptist, our patron saint
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. – Luke 1:76-77
On Sunday (June 26) we celebrate the Birth of John the Baptist, our patron saint, whose story began even before his birth.
The angel Gabriel foretold his miraculous birth and prophetic ministry to his father Zechariah when he was serving as a priest in the Temple at Jerusalem – the scene that is depicted in the left hand panel of our stained glass window above the altar. The news was a joyous answer to prayer for the previously barren Elizabeth – Luke 1:5-25.
John lived the life of a prophet in the desert. He preached dressed like an Old Testament prophet, wearing a garment of camel-skin and eating locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and a coming judgment. He invited people to accept baptism as a sign of their repentance.
His ministry resembled that of the prophets in that he disturbed the comfortable when he said, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves we have Abraham as our ancestor.” – Luke 3:7-8
His message obviously disturbed people. Some of the powerful did repent, including tax collectors and soldiers. Tax collectors asked him what they must do and he replied, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” – Luke 3:13. His advice to soldiers was, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.” – Luke 3:14.
People began to wonder if John was the Messiah so he reassured them that he was not. He declared that his ministry was preparing for the coming of the Messiah, “I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” – Mark 1:8
We see John’s great courage in condemning the unlawful marriage of Herod to Herod’s brother’s wife. Herod had John put in prison. He stood up for the truth. Unfortunately, like many who stand up for the truth today, he paid the price and was beheaded.
Jesus declared John to be the greatest man to have ever lived, “I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John.” – Luke 7:28,
John personified the term ‘set apart for God’. He knew he had been given a specific job to do and he set out to fulfil that mission. Like John, may we be faithful to the call of God on our lives.