June 24 is the Solemnity of The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist. Today we celebrate the birth of the man who, as Saint Augustine tells us, “represents the boundaries between the two testaments, the old and the new.” All of the events surrounding the birth of the Baptist suggest that the obscurity of the Old Testament prophesies are to be revealed and illuminated by the one who John is to proclaim, who John had already been proclaiming as he leaped in the womb of his mother Elizabeth at Mary’s arrival. Leaping like David dancing before the Ark of the Covenant. Even from the womb John points us past the signs to the ultimate realities. This is why we celebrate his birth with a Solemnity!
John points us out of the wilderness, out of confusion, to the fulfillment of the words of Isaiah, Hosea, Jeremiah and the prophets. Words that often were mysterious, and attain their deepest meaning only in the light of Christ’s salvific mission. And us too, he points us past the mundane to Jesus, in whose light even the most obscure life is elevated and glorified.
Of course evil hates clarity and light. The enemy of your soul will always try to confuse your vocation, obscure your accomplishments and highlight your failings. Even John the Baptist experienced moments of confusion and doubt as he faced down evil in his martyrdom (Matthew 11:2). From his place of imprisonment John lived out what he had been preaching to all who would listen: He turned to the Lord; he asked Him for reassurance and in the Lord’s response he was satisfied. Even in his doubt he fulfilled his mission which is so beautifully portrayed in so many paintings; in sending his messengers to Jesus, John was pointing to Him and showing us all the way out of our own confusion and self-doubt.
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