Memory of the Church

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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

I am the good shepherd,
my sheep listen to my voice,
and they become
one flock and one fold.
.

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

I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Church today celebrates a very ancient feast: the birth of John the Baptist. Together with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, John is the only saint whose birthday the Church remembers. And this is because their lives, since their birth, are directly and explicitly linked to Jesus: Mary in order to be his Mother, John in order to prepare his way. In the Byzantine iconostasis they are represented one on one side and the other on the other side of the central entrance and with their hands they point to the "door" that is Christ. With a gesture of their hand, they invite the faithful to turn their gaze toward the Saviour. John shows humanity the way that leads to Jesus. He is revered in Islam, also; his relics are kept in the mosque of the Umayyad in Damascus. The evangelist Luke narrates his birth in a way parallel to that of Jesus. The Lord had gazed upon him too. The birth of this child opens a new life for the two old parents at a time when all hopes seemed to be vanished because of Elizabeth's sterility. The son is certainly a gift from God and the two elderly parents see their lives fulfilled by the future generation. Through this child, they become both part of the great plan of God for the world. John, fruit of the angel's word even in his name, is the prophet that God sent to prepare the way to the Lord and to reveal him to the people of his time. The example of the Baptist helps Christians to turn their eyes towards Jesus, the Messiah God sent to save us from the slavery of sin. What happened to the Baptist is true for each of us: we are all the fruit of God's love; not one of us was born by chance. We are all a gift from God so that we may become disciples of Jesus and prepare the hearts of human beings to receive him as the Saviour of the world.