Today in the both lungs of the Catholic Church, the East and the West, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, or as it is titled in the East – Nativity of the Holy Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John. St. John the Baptist is the son of Saints Zachariah and Elizabeth and the last great Old Testament prophet. He is the harbinger of Jesus Christ. It would be hard to imagine that a Christian would not know the story behind Saint John the Baptist, but in case you don’t, you can read a simple and short explanation of that here.
In our age of the New Evangelization, Saint John the Baptist is an example of one who preached with passion, strength, humility and courage. He was not afraid, even in the face of grave danger, to speak the truth and prepare the way for Jesus Christ. As John the Baptist preached, so must we also speak in the ways associated with our God-given gifts, the same dynamic message in our current culture – a culture that stays anything and everything is okay as long as it makes you feel good, a motto frequently professed by King Herod.
And as if St. John the Baptist wasn’t enough of an example for us, many of us remember that papacy of Pope St. John Paul II, who in the face of grave danger from the Nazis, and even more so, the Socialists, stood toe-to-toe with them and defeated them by preaching the Truth of Jesus Christ. Now a saint counted among the greats of the Catholic Church, John Paul II stands for us as the pope of the New Evangelization and an example of what it means to preach the Gospel message in a world hostile to Jesus Christ.
So with this all being said, I give you 7 quotes from Pope St. John Paul II’s Latin Rite Mass Homily given at Kyiv in the Ukraine on June 24, 2001 about Saint John the Baptist and his relations to Jesus Christ –
“His name is John” (Lk 1:63)…which in Hebrew means “God is benevolent”. God is benevolent to human beings: he wants them to live; he wants them to be saved. God is benevolent to his people: he wants to make of them a blessing for all the nations of the earth. God is benevolent to humanity: he guides its pilgrim way towards the land where peace and justice reign. All this is contained in that name: John!”
“Look today to John the Baptist, an enduring model of fidelity to God and his Law. John prepared the way for Christ by the testimony of his word and his life. Imitate him with docile and trusting generosity.”
“Saint John the Baptist is above all a model of faith. Following the example of the great Prophet Elijah, in order to listen more attentively to the word of the one Lord of his life, he leaves everything and withdraws to the desert, from which he would issue the resounding call to prepare the way of the Lord (cf. Mt 3:3 and parallels).”
“He is a model of humility, because to those who saw in him not only a Prophet, but the Messiah himself, he replied: “Who do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but after me one is coming, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie” (Acts 13:25).”
“He is a model of uprightness and courage in defending the truth, for which he was prepared to pay in his person, even to the point of imprisonment and death.”
“You, dear young people, be brave and free! Do not let yourselves be taken in by the deceptive mirages of an easy happiness. Follow the way of Christ: he is demanding, certainly, but he alone can help you to savour the full meaning of life and enjoy peace of heart.”
“You, dear parents, prepare the way of the Lord before your children. Bring them up with love, and set a good example by living the principles you teach. And you, teachers and leaders of society, deepen your commitment to promoting the complete development of the human person, fostering in the young a deep sense of justice and of solidarity with the less fortunate.”
To conclude, let us always remember the words of Pope St. John Paul II – “Be Not Afraid.” Even in the face of our current culture, who sees Christianity, specifically Catholicism as a threat, we have these words, the actions and words of St. John the Baptist, the Cross of Jesus Christ, and the chivalrous witness of the great saints and martyrs of the Church who support us and intercede for us at all times.
Saint John the Baptist…Pray for Us.
Pope St. John Paul II…Pray for Us.