Saint John the Baptist finds himself in elite company. Together with St. Joseph he is one of only two saints besides the Blessed Virgin Mary to have more than one feast day and he and the Blessed Virgin Mary are the only saints to have a feast day celebrating their birth.
June 24th is the solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. Here are five quotes to help you get to know the man of whom Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.”
- “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire."?
Bible scholar John Bergsma recently discussed John the Baptist’s formative years with the Essene movement. The Essenes intimately connected the Holy Spirit with water. John the Baptist went even further, connecting the baptism of the Messiah not just with water and the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit and fire. Bring on the heat!
- “He must increase; I must decrease.”
?John’s birth is celebrated near the pinnacle of light in the northern hemisphere, the summer solstice. The liturgical calendar reveals something of the reality of John’s mission as a precursor to the Messiah, the Incarnate Son of God who is “the Light that shines in the darkness.” After the summer solstice each year, the amount of sunlight begins to decrease, just as John began to decrease in anticipation of the Messiah’s coming. It reaches its lowest ebb just before Christmas, when the Light of Lights descends from heaven and physical light itself begins to increase.
- “Repent, the Kingdom of God is near.”?
A true mystic, John’s interior life and supernatural vision of reality allowed him to lead others to the conviction that they must change their way of life to see Heaven. Baptized by the Holy Spirit in the womb of his mother, John’s life was marked by in-breaking of the Kingdom of Heaven from his earliest days. His words captured reality so clearly they became the first words of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark: “Repent, the Kingdom of God is at hand.”
- “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee before the coming wrath?”
John the Baptist wasn’t much for hypocrisy, as evidenced by his choice words for the Pharisees and Sadducees. He spoke kindly of tax collectors and prostitutes who repented, however. His words are a not so gentle reminder that humble acknowledgment of our sins is more important than keeping up appearances.
- “Behold, the Lamb of God!”?
John the Baptist was among the first to recognize the divinity of Jesus. Not only does he leap in the womb, he instructs his own disciples Andrew and John to follow Jesus, calling him the Lamb of God. The priest repeats this startling recognition of Jesus’ identity at every Mass: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”
May the words of John the Baptist kindle the fire of love within you on this solemnity so that you may decrease, see Heaven in the midst of everyday life, live with integrity, and behold the Lamb of God.