You’ve just heard the account of the events regarding the birth of St. John the Baptist. St. Luke’s stirring account parallels in many ways the account of the conception and birth of Jesus.
St. Luke connects St. John’s narrative with events in Palestinian history; he casts the Jesus account in the light of events of Roman history.
The announcement to Mary of the birth of Jesus is parallel to the announcement to Zechariah of the birth of John. In both the angel Gabriel appears to the parent who is troubled by the vision and then told by the angel not to fear. After the announcement is made the parent objects and a sign is given to confirm the announcement. The particular focus of the announcement of the birth of Jesus is on his identity as Son of David and Son of God. John is described as “prophet of the Most High.” “Most High” is a title for God commonly used by Luke.
The birth and circumcision of John above all emphasize John’s incorporation into the people of Israel by the sign of the covenant. The narrative of John’s circumcision also prepares the way for the subsequent description of the circumcision of Jesus
John is to be the messenger sent before Yahweh, as described in the Old Testament. He is cast, moreover, in the role of the Old Testament fiery reformer, the prophet Elijah, who is sent before “the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.”
“the angel of the Lord” is identified as Gabriel, the angel who, in the Book of Daniel, announces the 70 weeks of years and the coming of an anointed one, a prince. By alluding to Old Testament themes such as the coming of the day of the Lord and the dawning of the messianic era, Luke is presenting his interpretation of the significance of the births of John and Jesus. Even the Baptist’s name, John is significant because it means “Yahweh [God] has shown favor.”
The next time we hear of St. John is when he is baptizing in the Jordan River. His baptism is a baptism of repentance to prepare the way of the Lord. Although Jesus has no need of repentance, he has John baptize him as an example to others.
The next time we encounter St. John is when he denounces Herod for marrying his brother’s wife. We all know well the story of Salome’s dance at Herod’s birthday party and her subsequent request for St. John’s head on a platter and Herod’s compliance with the request.
What can we learn from the example of St. John the Baptist? Two points stand out. The first is the need for repentance. We all need daily to repent, that is, to turn back to God. Our lives can get so busy and we can become so preoccupied with our daily needs that we put God on a back burner. We aren’t committing sin, but we aren’t placing God in the center of our lives. Repentance means having a change of heart; it means a 180 degree turn around and we all need that daily.
The second lesson we can learn from St. John is the need to speak the truth. He spoke up against King Herod’s immoral action and paid the price of martyrdom.
We have so many issues in our country that should prompt us to speak up in favor of not only justice but mercy and compassion. We need to know the teaching of the Catholic Church on these various issues and then talk to friends and family about what is the truth. Don’t forget to contact legislators and other civil authorities to express your ideas. Keep up with the issues and vote for candidates and policies that reflect our Catholic faith.
The people to whom you express yourself may not like you for it but Herod didn’t like St. John’s denouncement either. Always respect the other person’s opinion, even when you disagree with it, and avoid arguments. Simply state your position clearly and calmly.
There you have it. With repentance we stay attuned to God’s will and the Holy Spirit will guide us in the truth that we can speak to others.