By Mel Mantanona
This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of St. John the Baptist.
Who is St. John the Baptist and why does he serve as a prominent figure in the New Testament?
First of all, why today, June 24? The traditional and simple interpretation of this date is found in Scripture during the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel mentions to Mary that her cousin Elizabeth is six months pregnant with whom we later know as John the Baptist (Lk 1:36).
It is only plausible to conclude that Jesus is born six months after John the Baptist’s birth. When Mary visits Elizabeth, John leaps in his mother’s womb, recognizing Jesus as Lord in Mary’s womb.
In today’s Gospel, the first important thing to note is how miraculous John’s birth is. His mother, Elizabeth, was barren and old, yet still, God gave life to John despite such factors, much like Sarah with Isaac in the Old Testament. This special birth hints at John’s special role in salvation history.
When the angel appeared to Zachariah and told him that Elizabeth would conceive a child, he responded with doubt and is rendered mute for the duration of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Upon circumcision and naming day, eight days after his birth, it was assumed that the newborn was to be named after his father, but this isn’t the case.
Elizabeth steps in and says that he will be called John, which means “The Lord has been gracious” in Hebrew having that his birth was an act of grace from God. It isn’t until Zachariah accepts the name of his child that his muteness is gone, which is yet another miracle.
The signs and miracles surrounding his birth leads people to believe strongly that John will be special and an important figure while they wait for the Messiah. We later find out who John is.
John becomes the forerunner of Christ, through whom grace, peace, and salvation will come into the world. John, filled with the Spirit from birth, prepares the way of the Lord by being the bridge between the Old and the New Testament.
Information and photo from Dr. Brant via Catholic Productions.