Before He Was Born, St. John the Baptist Knew Jesus

The nativity of St. John the Baptist is remembered June 24 in the Church.

Rembrandt, “The Visitation,” 1640
Rembrandt, “The Visitation,” 1640 (photo: Public Domain)

And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. ―Luke 1:43–44

John the Baptist — the son of Sts. Elizabeth and Zechariah — possessed a keenly spiritual intuition all the way from the time in his mother’s womb until his death. As a young adult, John spent years in the wilderness near the Jordan River, fasting and praying, preparing his soul to grasp the divine event soon to take place: the coming of the Lord. He knew many other people needed to prepare their souls as well, so John began to preach to and encourage people, baptizing anyone who desired it with water from the Jordan.

Countless people felt compelled to go to listen to and contemplate the things John had to say: repentance, love for others and respect for all. Some people were ill at ease with what he had to say; the challenge was too uncomfortable. Others were thunderstruck. They eagerly changed their lifestyles, undergoing baptism in acknowledgment of their renewed lives.

Jesus arrived one day requesting baptism, and John was stunned. He claimed unworthiness, for he knew that Jesus was the one everyone waited for — the Messiah, the divine Savior. Only after Jesus assured him that the baptism was necessary did John perform the task, probably with great awe.

John’s preaching of moral living eventually brought about his own death. The tetrarch Herod Antipas had taken the wife of his stepbrother as his own and was offended by John’s charge of wrongdoing. But although Antipas was indignant with John, he had a certain respect for him as well; instead of having John killed, he merely threw him in prison.

Then one night, while at a banquet with many friends, Herod Antipas’s stepdaughter danced for him and his guests; she so delighted them all that the ruler offered to grant her any wish. When Salome — urged by her mother — requested John the Baptist’s head on a platter, the ruler immediately regretted making the very public promise. But under pressure to keep his word, Antipas reluctantly ordered the cruel deed to be done.

A Novena of Days with St. John the Baptist

The nativity of St. John the Baptist is remembered on June 24 in the Catholic Church. This great saint is the patron saint of baptisms, converts and convulsion sufferers. Perhaps you would like to spend a prayerful nine days with St. John the Baptist—if so, contemplate one passage below a day for nine days. Do a bit of journaling, read some footnotes, and see what new lessons you can learn from the life of this holy man. Be sure to ask St. John the Baptist to pray for any special intentions you may have!

  • Day 1) Luke 1:10–25
  • Day 2) Luke 1:39–45
  • Day 3) Luke 1:57–66, 80
  • Day 4) Luke 3:1–22
  • Day 5) Matthew 3:1–17
  • Day 6) Mark 1:2–11
  • Day 7) John 1:19–36
  • Day 8) John 3:22–30
  • Day 9) Mark 6:17–29

This article originally appeared June 24, 2019, at the Register.

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