In our liturgy during the year, three births are celebrated: the birth of Mary, the mother of Jesus, then John the Baptist, and that of Jesus. Why are these three signaled in a special way? Because of their personal vocations which are essential to the working out of God’s providential history of salvation. John, is considered the last of the biblical prophets who unites both covenants and is the precursor of the Messiah, Jesus. This is the perspective given to us Christians by Luke in chapter 16:16. However, today we are fortunate to have the most information about John’s birth in the Infancy Narrative of St. Luke.
The first reading shows the similarity of John to the Servant of God who is central to Second and Third Isaiah. John has the same type of a calling and thus we have a foreshadowing of his importance in this excerpt for today’s celebration of the birth of the one whom Jesus considered the greatest man to ever have been born from a human mother!
The story of Elizabeth’s miraculous conception in her barren condition is part of the narrative that leads to John’s birth in salvation history. He will be both herald, witness, and precursor as we learn from the Gospels.
Like me, you were probably surprised to see his feast of birth taking the place of the ordinary celebration of the Lord Jesus on a Sunday. But liturgy and scripture are in accord of his importance for us. He has a great role to play in our salvation and that of the nations. He will be one of the great lights for the nations as we learn from St. Luke.
We deeply recognize the importance of every human birth but those who are models of holiness like Mary and John are singled out for us in a special liturgical celebration. Though the many births that we have in our own family and nation every one is a special grace taking place because of the woman and man and God who are involved in this life-giving event of God’s providential care for all of us.
We are helped by the most personal psalm in the Bible, Psalm 139, to complete our meditation and celebration of the birth of John the Baptist as well as to thank God for our own birth. This should definitely be the Psalm of the Right to Life. Amen.
Copyright 2012 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.