Commentary for Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist

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Since the 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time falls on June 24 this year, we are celebrating the Solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist, an ancient feast that goes back to the 4th century, 6th months before the birth of Jesus (ancient way of calculating made it 24th instead of 25th).

Today is a great opportunity to give a pro-life homily:

  • “We have a very reductive and juridical idea of the person that causes a lot of confusion in the debate over abortion. It seems that a child acquires the dignity of a person only when this is recognized by human authorities. For the Bible the person is he who is known by God, he who God calls by name; and God, we are assured, knows us from our mother’s womb, his eyes saw us when we were still being fashioned in the womb. Science tells us that in the embryo the whole human being who will be is becoming, projected in each tiny detail; to this our faith adds that what we have is not some unknown project of nature but a project of the creator’s love. St. John the Baptist’s mission is entirely traced out before his birth: “And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways.” The Church holds that John the Baptist was already sanctified in his mother’s womb by the presence of Christ. That is why she celebrates the feast of his birth.” — Fr. Cantalamessa
First Reading: Isaiah 49:1–6
 Psalm: Psalm 139:1b–3, 13–15
 Second Reading: Acts 13:22–26
  • Our second reading for today comes from Saint Paul’s discourse in the synagogue of Antioch in Pisidia. Saint Paul is providing a survey of history which shows that Jesus is from the kingly line of David and is therefore the fulfillment of all the Jewish prophesies.
Gospel: Luke 1:57–66, 80
57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58 Her neighbours and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.
59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. 60 But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” 61 They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” 62 Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. 63 He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 Fear came over all their neighbours, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. 66 All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him.
80 The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.

“John is an absolutely pivotal figure. John sums up Israel and allows the story of Jesus to become clear, going against the Marcionite form of Christology in the last 200 years (no Old Testament background). John the Baptist was of very priestly stock and must have grown up around the Temple, very aware of all the rituals and ceremonies around sacrifice, etc. So why do we hear Johns first public appearance to be in the desert and not in the temple? Aware of temple corruption, John left the temple to offer to people what the temple was not offering, a baptism of forgiveness — the precise thing people came to the temple to receive (forgiveness of sins through sacrifice). Furthermore, he was recapitulating the liberation sought in the Exodus. Overall, he summed up Israel, and yet he consistently presented himself as a forerunner preparing the way for something greater, stressing that Israelite history was not yet finished. “He must increase and I must decrease” — the overture is complete and now the great opera begins.” — Bishop Barron

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