Memory of the Saints and the Prophets

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The Eastern and Western Churches remember the birth of John the Baptist, the "greatest of those born of women," who prepared the way for the Lord.

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people acquired by God
to proclaim his marvellous works.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Luke 1,57-66.80

The time came for Elizabeth to have her child, and she gave birth to a son;

and when her neighbours and relations heard that the Lord had lavished on her his faithful love, they shared her joy.

Now it happened that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; they were going to call him Zechariah after his father,

but his mother spoke up. 'No,' she said, 'he is to be called John.'

They said to her, 'But no one in your family has that name,'

and made signs to his father to find out what he wanted him called.

The father asked for a writing-tablet and wrote, 'His name is John.' And they were all astonished.

At that instant his power of speech returned and he spoke and praised God.

All their neighbours were filled with awe and the whole affair was talked about throughout the hill country of Judaea.

All those who heard of it treasured it in their hearts. 'What will this child turn out to be?' they wondered. And indeed the hand of the Lord was with him.

Meanwhile the child grew up and his spirit grew strong. And he lived in the desert until the day he appeared openly to Israel.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You will be holy,
because I am holy, thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Today the Church celebrates the birth of John the Baptist, which is a very ancient feast in the Church. Besides Mary, John is the only saint whose birth is remembered. This is because their lives cannot be understood without reference to Jesus: they were born for Jesus, one to be his mother and the other to prepare the way for him. In a Byzantine iconostasis, Mary and John are depicted alongside the central door, Christ, inviting the faithful to turn their eyes towards Jesus. John was born to show men and women the way that leads to Jesus. He is even venerated in Islam, and his relics are kept in the Umayyad mosque in Damascus. The evangelist narrates his birth in a way that parallels the birth of Jesus. The Lord’s gaze came to rest on him, too. The angel appears to Zechariah while he is performing duties in the temple and tells him about the birth of a son. The announcement seems totally impossible, because Zechariah’s wife Elizabeth is presently sterile. But the angel insists and even suggests to Zechariah the name he should give the child: "You will name him John" (that is, "God is favourable"). The birth of the Baptist inaugurates a new life for the two elderly parents, even though all hope seemed to have vanished because of Elizabeth’s sterility. The son is the fruit of the angel’s word and his name is completely new: he is born to show the world Jesus. John is an example for us too: we are all the fruit of God’s love, and none of us was born by chance. We were born to be disciples of Jesus and to prepare the hearts of men and women to welcome him.