Tomorrow, June 24th, we celebrate the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. This feast stands out for many reasons, but the most obvious one is that today’s feast is one of three nativities on the Church Calendar. The other two are the Nativity of Mary, the Mother of God and (of course) Christmas, the feast of Our Lord’s Nativity.
In fact, today’s feast is a reminder that Christmas is only six months away. Much like John the Baptist, today’s feast is a proclamation to prepare the way for Christ and all that His coming promises. And the parallels between these births doesn’t end there.
But why do we celebrate this prophet’s nativity? What allows him to be one of three nativities on the calendar?
Giving Voice to the Word
When the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah, he promised the elderly priest that many would rejoice at the birth of his son, John the Baptist (Lk 1:14). We continue to do just that.
Today’s Mass readings outline the many great things John will do. But more than that, Zechariah cannot believe he and his wife could even conceive due to their age. Much like the feast of Christmas, today’s feast gives testament to God’s ability to bring new life. But that ability to bring new life to his family is what raises Zechariah’s skepticism.
I often wonder why the idea of new life was so strange to Zechariah while he was conversing with a mighty, terrifying angel. The angel further tells the aged priest that John will be made to convert and make people ready for the Lord. Yet, Zechariah is having trouble with the part of the prophecy that involves him having a son. Due to this doubt, Gabriel silences Zechariah until John is born and all these prophecies come true.
St. Augustine notes here the difference between John’s annunciation and Christ’s:
The news of John’s birth was met with incredulity, and his father was struck dumb. Christ’s birth was believed, and he was conceived through faith.
We can’t be too hard on Zechariah, though. The Nativity of St. John the Baptist is full of miracles that are only then outdone by the birth of his cousin, Jesus Christ. Zechariah may have not had the faith of Joseph and Mary, but he found the joy and hope when his voice was regained.
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