Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Bolton

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Cycle B

John Baptist Birth



The Birth of St. John the Baptist



Luke 1: 57-66.80


“His name is John”

When Peter was seeking to replace Judas the traitor, he insisted that to become an apostle a person must be “someone who was with us right from the time John was baptising until the day Jesus was taken up from us”. It is clear that in the early community, the story of Jesus began with the ministry of John. Likewise in the four accounts of the Gospel by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; each makes mention of John the Baptist’s role in the beginning of the ministry of Jesus. The Gospel story begins with John and takes over from him.

John’s importance lies not only in his preaching repentance in preparation for the coming Messiah, thus developing an audience ready to listen to Jesus. Nor is it simply that he directed some of his own disciples to become followers of Jesus, thus providing some of the men who would become apostles. John’s importance lies in his role. In line with all the prophets of old, his task was to call people to repentance, to a change of life, a new beginning, in readiness for the coming of Messiah. John’s unique role was to be the last of those prophets. They spoke with conviction of the one who is to come; it was John’s task to say that he is here. His is the last word of the Old Testament giving way to the New. He is presented as the personification of the Old Testament pointing to its own fulfilment in the person of Jesus the Messiah. In him the history of salvation has reached its turning point.

John spoke of himself precisely in that light: “I am a voice crying our in the wilderness”; “I am not the light; I bear witness to the light”. Of his relationship with Jesus he says “he must grow greater; I must grow smaller”. The time has come to hand over, to let the focus now rest on the One John was sent to reveal.

Speaking of John, Jesus made the following declaration: “of all the children born of women, a greater than John the Baptist has never been seen”. Today, in inviting us to celebrate his birth, the Church reminds us of his importance.