DRAW CLOSER TO THE LORD
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As Catholics, we are called to continually grow in our faith, seeking the Face of Our Lord. Consecration means “to set apart for sacred use.” Baptism is our first and essential consecration, when we are set apart for God. Other consecrations represent our will to fulfill our baptismal grace on specific paths, entrusting ourselves to the Sacred Heart, the Holy Spirit, the Blessed Mother, or Saint Joseph.
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Saint John the Baptist is most known for being the cousin of Jesus and the principal figure to prepare the way for Christ before He began His public ministry. He is also known for being the son of Saints Elizabeth and Zechariah, who bore him in their old age.
Though the exact date of Saint John the Baptist’s birth is not known, each year the Church honors his Nativity on June 24th. This is three months after the Annunciation, March 25th, since Elizabeth was already six months along when the angel appeared to Mary and Jesus was conceived (Luke 1:24-26).
Saint John the Baptist is one of the few saints who have two feast days. Each year the Church celebrates the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist on June 24th as well as the date of his martyrdom which is on August 29th.
In the United States, there isn’t a particular custom for Saint John the Baptist’s feast day. Though it isn’t a Holy Day of Obligation, it would always be of merit to attend Holy Mass to honor a saint, especially on their feast days.
In many countries and cultures, especially ones with long Catholic histories, people have customs and ways of celebrating feasts. For example, in Europe, St. John’s birth is commonly celebrated by “Saint John’s Day.” This celebration marks both Midsummer and Saint John’s birthday, which are six months before the birth of Christ. Among the most unusual occurs in the Nueva Ecija province of the Philippines, where residents of Bibiclat village cover themselves in mud, dried banana leaves, vines, and twigs called the “Mud People” festival. They celebrate this festival in thanksgiving for rain having stopped the execution of 14 villagers by Japanese soldiers in 1944, a miracle they attribute to Saint John the Baptist.
“Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist.” - Matthew 11:11
John the Baptist was born to Saint Elizabeth, who was a kinswoman of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Luke 1:36), making Jesus and Saint John related, as well. The most common term of relation suggested for the two is “cousin,” though the exact degree is unknown.
John the Baptist’s mother is Saint Elizabeth, a relative of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the wife of Zechariah, a member of the priestly class. Elizabeth was “barren” and both she and her husband were “of advanced age” when she conceived Saint John. She believed she would never have children when the Lord answered her prayers for a son.
Saint Zechariah is his father. He was a descendant of Aaron and therefore a priest in the temple of Jerusalem and the husband of Saint Elizabeth, who had been barren for many years. Once when he was serving in the temple, the angel Gabriel appeared to him and told him that his wife would bear a son and that he was to name him John. Because Zechariah doubted the words of the angel, he was made mute until the birth of John the Baptist. The full account of this encounter can be found in the Gospel of Luke 1:5-24.
In Luke 1: 5-7, we learn of Saints Elizabeth and Zechariah. There it reads,
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
The birth of John the Baptist can be found in the Gospel of St. Luke, chapter 1, verses 57 to 60.
Now the time came for Elizabeth to be delivered, and she gave birth to a son. And her neighbors and kinsfolk heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they would have named him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said, “Not so; he shall be called John.”
"Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John" - Luke 1:13
Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, was barren for many years, though she and her husband Zechariah prayed for a son. One day an angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah and said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John” (Luke 1:13).
The full account of the foretelling of the birth of John the Baptist can be found in Luke 1:5-23.
How was John the Baptist conceived?
Unlike Jesus who was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, St. John was conceived the normal way.
In Matthew 11:10 we learn specifically what Jesus said of John the Baptist.
“This is he of whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.’
Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John; and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matthew 11:10-15)
One would think that it would have made sense for Jesus to baptize John since Jesus was infinitely greater than John. Even John questioned Jesus when He asked him to be baptized. “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (Matthew 3:14). The Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 536) teaches,
The baptism of Jesus is on his part the acceptance and inauguration of his mission as God's suffering Servant. He allows himself to be numbered among sinners; he is already "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." Already he is anticipating the "baptism" of his bloody death. Already he is coming to "fulfill all righteousness," that is, he is submitting himself entirely to his Father's will: out of love he consents to this baptism of death for the remission of our sins. The Father's voice responds to the Son's acceptance, proclaiming his entire delight in his Son. The Spirit whom Jesus possessed in fullness from his conception comes to "rest on him." Jesus will be the source of the Spirit for all mankind. At his baptism "the heavens were opened" - the heavens that Adam's sin had closed - and the waters were sanctified by the descent of Jesus and the Spirit, a prelude to the new creation.
Baptism frees us from Original Sin. Since Jesus had no sin, neither Original Sin or personal sin, He did not need to be baptized. He chose to be baptized by John primarily for two reasons. The first reason is because He came to the world to give us an example to follow; to show us how to be truly human, as the Father intended. He wanted to embrace the human condition in every way, except for sin. His baptism shows us that if even the Son of Man who had no sin, humbled himself, then how much more are we to humble ourselves to ask for forgiveness and healing.
Christ’s baptism was also a theophany of the Holy Trinity, since at it the Three Persons of the Trinity were made known – the Son being baptized, the Spirit descending, and the Father affirming, and Sacramental Baptism foreshadowed.
And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and behold, a voice from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
We, too, are declared pleasing to the Father, when in Baptism our sins are removed and the Spirit fills us with divine life. Pope Benedict XVI states:
“Looking at the events in light of the Cross and Resurrection, the Christian people realized what happened: Jesus loaded the burden of all mankind’s guilt upon his shoulders; he bore it down into the depths of the Jordan. He inaugurated his public activity by stepping into the place of sinners. His inaugural gesture is an anticipation of the Cross.”
The idea of ritual washing was part of Jewish practice. For those who were not Jewish by birth, it was part of their conversion. However, it was not a proper sacrament as it did not confer grace, as do the Christian sacraments.
The baptism of John, on the other hand, was a step toward the Sacraments of the Church, in that it pointed not back to the Law of Moses, but forward to the Law of Christ, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). It could be called a sacramental, sacrament-like. The true Sacrament of Baptism, however, would await Christ’s institution, and through it sin would be forgiven and the Holy Spirit conferred.
Jesus was no one’s disciple. John the Baptist, for his part, prepared the way for Jesus, and in doing so prepared his own disciples to follow the Messiah.
What happened to the disciples of Saint John the Baptist after Jesus began his public ministry?
There were many disciples of Saint John the Baptist, many of whom were unnamed in Scripture. We know that two of the Twelve Apostles were first disciples of John the Baptist. The Gospel of John assures us that one of these apostles was Andrew. The other is not known with certainty, possibly John, possibly Simon or Philip. Since John prepared the hearts of the people for the coming of the Messiah, we can expect that once his disciples found out who Christ was, many became disciples of Jesus then, as well.
“Now the time came for Elizabeth to be delivered, and she gave birth to a son… And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they would have named him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said, ‘Not so; he shall be called John.’” - Luke 1:57, 59-60
God sent many prophets to speak to us before Jesus. This is because at first, He tried to speak to us Himself, and we disobeyed. He chose men throughout history to be prophets, to teach others about Him. Throughout the Old Testament, people were even unfaithful to God through the teachings and leading of the prophets. God sent prophets, just like he sent John the Baptist, to soften their hearts, call them to repentance, and truly prepare people for Christ’s coming so they’d be able to recognize Him and receive Him when they encountered Him. John was the last of these and the greatest.
No, John the Baptist was not married. He had lived in the desert as an anchorite or hermit from his youth before undertaking his ministry, which ended with his martyrdom at Herod’s orders.
Are John the Baptist and John the Apostle the same?
No, John the Baptist and John the Apostle are not the same. John the Baptist was a relative of Jesus and prepared the way for His coming, and John the Apostle was a disciple of John the Baptist, who would eventually become a disciple of Jesus.
Videos About Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
Saint John the Baptist first appears in the Old Testament, when the prophets foretold of a voice that would prepare the way (Isaiah 40:1-11, Malachi 3:1-4). We mostly read about John the Baptist in the four Gospels. The following scripture passages give an account of Saint John the Baptist’s proclamations and testimonies: Matthew 3:1-12, Mark 1:2-8, Luke 3:1-18, Luke 7:27, and John 1:19-34. We can also read of the Gospel writers writing about John the Baptist in Luke 1:80, Mark 1:6-8, and John 1:6-8.
John the Baptist was set aside and filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15). He spent his whole life leading others to Christ; his whole existence revolved around preparing the way for Christ. Finally, he was killed by Herod for witnessing to the truth. This is why he is held in such high esteem in the Church. In most artwork depicting the communion of the saints in the Kingdom of God, Our Lady sits on Christ’s right, and John on his left.
One important lesson to take away from Saint John the Baptist is to spend our entire lives pointing to Jesus. Saint John the Baptist spent his entire life pointing to Christ. In speaking of our Lord, he said “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30). From John the Baptist we can learn to humble ourselves just as he did and make sure that our lives, witness, our entire being, always points to Christ.
What is Saint John the Baptist the patron saint of?
Saint John the Baptist is the patron saint of baptism.