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Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist – Homily

Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist
Vigil                                                                            Day
Jeremiah 1:4-10                                                          Isaiah 49:1-6
Psalm 71:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 15, 17 (6b)                             Psalm 139:1-3, 13-14, 14-15 (14a)
1 Peter 1:8-12                                                              Acts 13:22-26
Luke 1:5-17                                                                 Luke 1:57-66, 80
June 24, 2018

Today would normally be the 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time in Year B of our liturgical calendar.  Ordinary Time would be signified by green as the color of the vestments but you will note that I am wearing white vestments.

This is because June 24th is the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.  When a solemnity falls on a Sunday in Ordinary Time, it takes precedence over the Sunday.  So, white is the color for this solemnity and our readings are those of this solemnity.

It is the Nativity of the John the Baptist.  When you heard the word “nativity”, I suspect most of you immediately thought of Christmas.  When we use the word “nativity”, it is generally to refer to the birth of Jesus but “nativity” simply means “birth.”

Today’s solemnity commemorates the birth of John the Baptist.  We celebrate this recognizing John as a precursor to Jesus.

Generally, we hear most about John the Baptist in the readings of Advent as we prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus.  John came to “prepare the way of the Lord.

So, why celebrate this solemnity on June 24th?  The answer is simple.  If you remember the story of the Annunciation when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to tell her she had been chosen to be the mother of Jesus, Gabriel also told her that her relative Elizabeth had also conceived “and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren.”  That would mean that John the Baptist was born sixth months before Jesus.  That brings us to June 24th.

We like to celebrate birthdays.  It is a way of recognizing the gift that the person is to us.  Births mark a beginning.

You may have noted that in our hymnal books that there are two sets of readings for this solemnity.  The first is a set for the vigil Mass to be used if this solemnity is celebrated on the evening on June 23rd.  The second set are the readings to be used on June 24th.

There are some commonalities between the two sets of readings.  In both sets, the first reading speaks of those called by God.  The first reading for the vigil tells the story of the calling of the prophet Jeremiah.  The first reading of the day speaks of the suffering servant.  In both cases, we hear of the mother’s womb, being called from birth, or in Jeremiah’s case, how the Lord knew him even before He formed him in the womb.

Both responsorial psalms continue with this theme of the time in the “mother’s womb.”

Looking at the two gospels we can see that the gospel of the day continues the story begun in the gospel reading for the vigil.  The vigil reading tells of the time when John the Baptist was conceived in the womb of his mother Elizabeth’s womb.  The gospel for the day tells of the time when John the Baptist was born.

Generally, when we think about the beginning of a person’s life, we think of it in terms of the day they were born, meaning the day they emerged from their mother’s womb.

I think this is because this is when we can first see them with our physical eyes as a unique individual apart from their mother’s womb.  We can put an exact date to it.  It is the date that is put on their birth certificate.

But is it really the beginning of their life?  In terms of their life separate from their mother’s womb, yes, it is.

However, all those references I mentioned in the readings to the time spent in our mother’s womb should tell us something.  The readings do not refer to the “thing” in the woman’s womb.  Please note that this time, I said “woman’s womb.”  Note the readings say, “mother’s womb.”

“Mother” signifies that there is a child, a child “formed in the womb” by God.  A child “wonderfully made” by the Lord.  It is the Lord who forms our “inmost being.”

Yes, we celebrate birth dates as the day we know we came forth from our mother’s womb.  It is a good day to celebrate but to think back to life in the womb.

Think of the story of Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth.  After the Annunciation, Mary goes to celebrate with Elizabeth the news that they both conceived.  When Mary arrived at Elizabeth’s house, John the Baptist leapt for joy in his own mother’s womb at the presence of Jesus in Mary’s womb.  One child in the womb reacting, filled with the Holy Spirit, to life of the other in the womb.

One last thought – when did the angel Gabriel appear in the stories of John and Jesus?  Was it at their births?  No, in both cases it was at their conceptions.  We do well to celebrate birthdays as a way of celebrating the gift that the person is to us, the gift of their life that begins in the womb.

One Comment

  1. RMM says:

    I totally agree with the message of your homily it is important to let the people in your life know that their Birthday’s are special and that celebrating them lets you show that person that they are important in your life. Celebrating or acknowledging a Birthday shows the person that they are a gift to you. God gives you those special people.

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