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Liturgical day: June 24th: Birth of John the Baptist

1st Reading (Isa 49:1-6): Hear me, o coastlands, listen, o distant peoples. The Lord called me from birth, from my mother's womb he gave me my name. He made of me a sharp-edged sword and concealed me in the shadow of his arm. He made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me. You are my servant, he said to me, Israel, through whom I show my glory. Though I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, yet my reward is with the Lord, my recompense is with my God. For now the Lord has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb, that Jacob may be brought back to him and Israel gathered to him; and I am made glorious in the sight of the Lord, and my God is now my strength! It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.
Responsorial Psalm: 138
R/. I praise you, for I am wonderfully made.
O Lord, you have probed me, you know me: you know when I sit and when I stand; you understand my thoughts from afar. My journeys and my rest you scrutinize, with all my ways you are familiar.

Truly you have formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother's womb. I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made; wonderful are your works.

My soul also you knew full well; nor was my frame unknown to you when I was made in secret, when I was fashioned in the depths of the earth.
2nd Reading (Acts 13:22-26): In those days, Paul said: «God raised up David as king; of him God testified, I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will carry out my every wish. From this man's descendants God, according to his promise, has brought to Israel a savior, Jesus. John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel; and as John was completing his course, he would say, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet’. My brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those others among you who are God-fearing, to us this word of salvation has been sent».
Verscicle before the Gospel (Lk 1:76): Alleluia. You, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way. Alleluia.

Gospel text (Lc 1,57-66.80): When the time came for Elizabeth, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the merciful Lord had done a wonderful thing for her and they rejoiced with her. When on the eighth day they came to attend the circumcision of the child, they wanted to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, «Not so; he shall be called John». They said to her, «No one in your family has that name»; and they asked the father by means of signs for the name he wanted to give. Zechariah asked for a writing tablet and wrote on it, «His name is John», and they were very surprised.

Immediately Zechariah could speak again and his first words were in praise of God. A holy fear came on all in the neighborhood, and throughout the Hills of Judea the people talked about these events. All who heard of it pondered in their minds and wondered, «What will this child be?». For they understood that the hand of the Lord was with him. As the child grew up, he was seen to be strong in the Spirit; he lived in the desert till the day when he appeared openly in Israel.

«As the child grew up, he was seen to be strong in the Spirit»

Fr. Joan MARTÍNEZ Porcel
(Barcelona, Spain)

Today, we solemnly celebrate the Nativity of the Baptist. St. John is a man of contrasts: he lives in the silence of the desert, but right from there he appeals to the crowds with convincing voice inviting them to convert; he is humble enough to say he is only the voice, not the Word, but he does not mince his words and dares to accuse and denounce all injustices even to the very king; he urges his disciples to meet with Jesus, but he does not mind rebuking king Herod while he is in prison. Silent and humble, he is also strong and courageous enough to shed his blood. John the Baptist is a great man!, the greatest of them all, as Jesus himself will say in praise, but he is only Christ's precursor.

Perhaps, the secret of his greatness is the realization of knowing he has been chosen by God; this is how the evangelist explains it: «And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel» (Lk 1:80). All his childhood and youth was marked by the understanding of his mission: to provide testimony; which he does by baptizing Christ in the river Jordan, by favorably disposing the crowds for the Lord and, at the end of his life, by shedding his blood in favour of the truth. With our knowledge about John, we could answer the question his contemporary was wondering about: «What will this child be?» (Lk 1:66).

Through the baptism, we have been all chosen and sent to bear witness of the Lord. In an environment of indifference, St. John is a helping example to imitate; St. Augustine says: «Admire John as much as you can for, whom you admire is profitable to Christ. I insist, he is profitable to Christ, not because you offer anything to Him, but because of your being able to progress in Him». In John, his attitude as a Messenger, clearly explicit in attentive prayer to the Spirit, in his fortitude and humility, helps us to establish new horizons of sanctity for us and for our brother.