Today, we remember the life and works of St. John the Baptist.
St. John the Baptist was born in Judea in the late first century (circa 5 BC). His parents, Zechariah, a priest of the other of Abijah, and Elizabeth, known as the relative of Mary, were already in their old age when he was born. It was said that his birth was made through the intercession of God.
One day while Zechariah was in a temple, the angel Gabriel told him that his wife would bear a child and would be called John. Zechariah was startled in seeing an angel and did not believe what he had been told. For disbelieving, Angel Gabriel rendered him mute. Soon,
Elizabeth discovered that she was conceiving a child.
On the day of John’s circumcision, relatives and friends protested naming the child as John. They turned to get the wishes of Zechariah who was still mute. In writing, Zechariah wrote, “John is his name,” and immediately was able to speak.
John lived in the desert until the beginning of his ministry which began around 29 AD. He served as the forerunner of the Messiah and prepared the people by calling them to repentance. He came to identify and announce the Messiah. When he baptized Jesus, he said: “I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on Him. I myself did not know Him; but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God” (1:32-34).
John became more popular after the baptism of Jesus, which alarmed Herod Antipas whom John was criticizing for his unlawful marriage.
At some point, it was believed that Herod Antipas stole Herodias, the wife of his brother Herod Philip. John’s criticism of the couple’s union and his growing popularity resulted in his arrest and imprisonment as ordered by King Herod. Herodians, the King’s wife, hated John and waited for a chance to carry out her vengeance. This came during a feast that Herod hosted for his birthday. During the celebration, King Herod was so pleased with the dance performance of his wife’s daughter Salome that he told her he would give whatever her heart desired.
When she asked her mother what to ask from King Herod, Herodias prompted her daughter to ask for John the Baptist’s head on a platter. The King felt sorry because he knew that John was a good man. However, because of his promise and because of the people who had heard his step-daughter’s wish, he felt obliged. So he sent an executioner to bring the head of John the Baptist.
As we remember the birth of St. John the Baptist, may his teachings remind us to respond to the call of God with open heart and humbly obey His plans for us. Let us remember his teachings of repentance.