Today, June 24, the Universal Church celebrates the Solemnity of St. John the Baptist. It is amazing when we think of feast days in the Church; most saints we celebrate the day they die and passed into eternal life. But St. John the Baptist is one of two saints that we celebrate the day they were born. The other is the Blessed Mother herself. Why do we do this? Because we recognize the important of John the Baptist being the herald of Christ. He is the one who went before the Lord to prepare His way. He is also often referred to as the one who served as a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. John baptized Jesus in the Jordan, and John reminded his followers that he is not the Messiah, but "there is one coming who I am not worthy to remove his sandals." He was also not one to mince words. He was eventually beheaded because he condemned the marriage of King Herod, and that angered his wife.
John, being born of a woman who was considered barren and years past childbearing age, grew up to be a wild ass of a man, living in the desert and eating locusts and honey. He was not the Messiah, but he was a type of Elijah, an Old Testament figure who was also a wild ass of a man.
What can we learn from this great saint? First, we can learn that sound teaching will sway the people. As was stated earlier, he was not one to mince words. He taught it how it really was, and he didn't change his teaching when the authorities didn't like it. He remained true to his teaching. John can be an authority figure to those in public ministry as a priest, deacon, or bishop. He shows that when a man in ordained ministry stands up and teaches the Truth of the Faith, he will sway the people. In this day and age, we need strong men, men that will challenge us to the teachings of the gospel. John is a great figure for us to learn from in this respect, himself taking after the divine teacher Himself, Jesus.
For those who are not in ordained ministry, we can still participate in a unique way in the teaching office of Christ. We are on what many priests consider as the front line of evangelization. There are many places a priest or deacon just can't get to on an everyday basis to provide an effective witness to the gospel. But our offices, work places, and even Starbucks before work can be an arena for effective witness. Even when we are out in a public restaurant, how many times do we forget to say grace before meals? Grace before meals can be very effective as a witness, especially when you do the Sign of the Cross with it. Even at Mass, our demeanor and attitude can say a lot to someone who is non-Catholic, or someone visiting or whoever. John the Baptist teaches us many things; one thing I hope you learn from him is that wherever you are in life, you can be an effective witness to Christ for others to learn from, like John the Baptist was.
St. John the Baptist, pray for us. Mary, Queen of Saints, pray for us. All you holy angels and saints, pray for us.