Pope Benedict XVI says the Church's celebration of the birth of John the Baptist should be a reminder that for God all things are possible.
“From his mother’s womb, in fact, John is the forerunner of Jesus: His miraculous conception is announced from the Angel to Mary as a sign that 'nothing is impossible to God,'” he said to pilgrims in St. Peter's Square during his midday Angelus address June 24.
The Pope was marking the solemn feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. He noted that, apart from Our Lady, St. John is the only saint to have a birthday celebrated as a liturgical feast, “because it is closely connected to the mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God.”
He explained that St. John is emphasized by all four Gospel writers as the prophet who concluded the Old Testament by preparing the way for Christ and the New Covenant.
“Truly I tell you, among those born of women, there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he,” said Jesus in the Gospel of St. Matthew.
St. John’s father, Zechariah, was “a priest of the cult of the Old Testament” and yet “he did not immediately believe the announcement of an unexpected fatherhood,” said the Pope.
And so Zechariah was silenced until the child’s circumcision, when, “animated by the Holy Spirit,” he proclaimed his son’s mission:
“And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him.”
“All this was manifested 30 years later,” said the Pope, when St. John started to baptize in the River Jordan, “calling the people to prepare, through the act of repentance, the imminent coming of the Messiah.”
St. John then fulfilled his mission by both baptizing the Messiah in the River Jordan and, explained Pope Benedict, in being “asked to precede Jesus even in violent death.”
Thus in being beheaded by King Herod, St. John “bore full witness to the Lamb of God, whom he had first recognized and announced publicly.”
The Pope concluded, “Dear friends, the Virgin Mary helped her elderly cousin Elizabeth to carry to term the pregnancy of John."