24th June – Solemnity of St John the Baptist’s Birth

Apart from Mary and Joseph, John the Baptist is the only saint in the calendar who has two baptist birthfeasts to himself. One, in August, celebrates his death, and one, in June, celebrates his birth. And this is as it should be, for as Christ himself said, John was the greatest of the sons of men.

The greatest, but also the most tragic. A prophet from before his birth, leaping in the womb to announce the coming of the incarnate God, his task was to proclaim the fulfilment of all prophecies. And he did it: with unequalled courage he spread the news that he, the greatest of all men, was the least in the kingdom of heaven. His disciples, and the devil, would have preferred him to fight, to build his sect, to defeat this upstart Jesus whom he himself had baptized, to seize his place in history. But he did not – and so, rightly, he has his place, and he has glory in heaven.

We envy the great and the talented, and sometimes we think that they themselves are beyond envy. But when they come across someone with greater gifts, as one day most of them will, they will see for the first time what it means to feel like us. Let us pray that they, like John the Baptist, may pass that test. (Universalis)

The petitions of Evening Prayer I are not just appropriate prayers to say on such an occasion. In their own way they tell us about how we too can be witnesses to Jesus, like the Baptist was.

God our Father, you chose John the Baptist to announce the kingdom of Christ to all men. Joyfully we pray, therefore:
Lord, guide us in the way of peace.
Even in his mother’s womb you chose John to prepare the way for your Son;
  give us the faith to know Christ, and to make him known.
You inspired the Baptist to recognize the Lamb of God:
  through us, let the world recognize your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
You disposed your prophet to give way before Christ;
  give us the humility to let his light shine in the world.
You called John even to die for you;
  grant that we may share his burning zeal for the truth.
Remember the dead who have walked in the path of life:
  bring them to new life, cleansed from all stain of sin.

 

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