Today is the feast day of the birth of John the Baptist. There are only three birthdays celebrated in the Catholic liturgy. Jesus himself of course, his mother Mary and John the Baptist. Who is John we call the Baptist? Why is he so celebrated in the Church? Why do the Gospels, especially Luke and John, talk of him so greatly? It is basically a mystery. His mother Elizabeth met Mary when both were with child, as we say. Mary who had just conceived and Elizabeth who had been pregnant for some time. And Luke says in his Gospel that John in his mother Elizabeth’s womb leapt when he heard the greeting of Mary to Elizabeth. It is the second joyful mystery of the rosary, the Visitation.
And then there is the Gospel of John where John the Baptist says, “Behold the lamb of God. Behold him who takes away the sins of the world.” And that testimony led the first apostles to seek out Jesus. Rabbi, where do you live, they asked Jesus. “Come and see,” he said to them and then Andrew brought his brother Peter to Jesus.
And the Baptist says, I saw the Spirit as a Dove descend upon him and remain with him. He must increase and I must decrease. I am not worthy to untie his sandals.
So John is central to Jesus’ life. I believe that he and Jesus knew each other intimately, even though the Baptist says in John’s Gospel that he did not know him. But he was his spiritual companion. Could we believe that Jesus would be alone in his coming to the understanding of who he was? He, like all human beings, needed someone to share his journey with. Someone who could understand him. Someone who loved him completely. A true friend. He is the one who helped Jesus know himself
John’s birth, like Jesus’s, is filled with wonder, mystery and God’s presence. He is the one who Jesus depended on, trusted and sought out for guidance. Without John, would Jesus have come to his destiny? Without John, would Jesus have known fully who he was? We do not know. But the Gospels greatly honor John the Baptist. And we must also because we all need spiritual companions in order to come to ourselves. We all need a close friend who we can trust completely. That was who the Baptist was for Jesus and who Jesus was for the Baptist. It is obviously probably the greatest human relationship ever. John was Jesus’s herald. Treasure your relationships because without them, we cease to be who we were meant to be. Without them, we do not understand who we are.