The Church keeps two feast days for this prophet, his birth and death. Usually it is the latter that becomes the major day of thanksgiving, but not in the case of John. It is his nativity, which has been observed on this day since the 4th C. as both Augustine and Jerome testify, and its importance to-day is evident by the observance of a Vigil Mass as well. It is he who through the Holy Spirit first heralds the coming of the Saviour in the world, even before his birth by leaping in his mother's womb when his aged mother, Elizabeth, was greeted by her young cousin Mary after she had conceived Our Lord. Thus he is Christ's precursor before they ever met in the flesh.
John is the bridge between the Old and New Testaments. He is the last of the prophets as he heralds in the new covenant which fulfills the 'the Law and the prophets' in Jesus Christ. John is the last voice of the Old Covenant, the close of the Age of Law. Jesus is the first voice of the New Covenant, the beginning of the Age of Grace. Accordingly, John is born to an elderly, barren woman, while Jesus is born to a young virgin. Traditionally John is conceived at the autumn equinox, when leaves are dying and falling from the trees. Jesus is conceived at the spring equinox, when green buds are bursting forth on the trees and there are signs of new life everywhere. John is born in the Summer when the days are longest, but from his birth they grow shorter, whilst Jesus is born in the Winter when the days are shortest, and after his birth they grow longer. So John speaks truly when he says of Jesus, "He must increase, but I must decrease." John's baptism was of water but Christ's was of the Spirit.
John is the Voice "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness" 'Prepare the way of the Lord. Make straight his paths.'" Christ from the beginning was the Word. John's voice lasted only for a time; Christ, the Word  is eternal.
John is great, as testified by our Lord when he said that "among those born of woman there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist". He excels all, each and every one of us. He is greater than the prophets and is superior to the patriarchs. Everyone born of woman is inferior to John, except the son of the Virgin who is greater still, as John himself said: "He who comes after me ranks before me, and I am not worthy to unfasten the strap of his sandal."
John was also a humble hermit, spending a great deal of his life out in the wilderness in fasting and prayer, and living on "locusts and wild honey" not unlike the hermits in the desert in Egypt in those first centuries of Christianity. This was his preparation to herald the coming of the Messiah and to prepare hearts for that coming by repentance and water baptism. I have always imagined John to see this as a weighty responsibility, but clearly one that must be pursued at all costs because it was his vocation. Part of that vocation was to introduce his disciples to "the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" and to baptize Christ.  John was a lamp before the sun, a herald before a judge, a servant before his master, the best man before the bridegroom.
When we reflect on John's life, what aspects are especially applicable for us? Firstly, his expectation of Jesus' coming. He believed that the Messiah, the Lord's anointed, before whom, he was "not worthy to unfasten the strap of His sandal" would come.  He prepared for that coming. How often do we prepare properly for the coming of our Lord in the Sacrament in solitude and stillness? In John's desert seclusion he communicated with God, and exemplified that to know God and His will, one must spend time alone with Him.
Secondly, his message of repentance. He came to call us all to a life of confession and repentance, in other words a new life without the servitude of sin. So let us straighten the paths of our lives that are often devious, deceitful and dead in order to pave out a way of true faith and good works. Then when all is straighten and smooth we shall see the salvation of God and welcome our Saviour ass John did in the womb of his mother Elizabeth.
Thirdly, John showed us what humility is all about. He willingly and graciously acknowledged that Christ's ministry was far more important than His own. John knew his role was simple, to prepare for the coming of the One much greater than he.  He gladly gave way and was content to take second place; he "must decrease" while our Lord "increased". What a wonderful lesson this is for us, especially when we find it difficult to accept a newcomer into our midst, and especially when we appear to be threatened by that person's character and/or competency. The Baptist teaches us that true humility is accepting gladly our vocation in life and cheerfully fulfilling its demands.
Thirdly, John was fearless and forthright. He was not afraid to speak the truth even when dangerous to do so as he did when he denounced the marriage of Herod and Herodias. As we know such forthright speaking brought about his martyrdom. We too must try and follow John's example, and always be prepared to speak the truth and seek to preserve God's laws, even at the risk of misunderstanding, ostracism or indeed prison. Just as there was a laxity of keeping moral laws in the time of John, so there is to-day. John the Baptist's stance is a constant reminder to us that we must always be God's subjects first.
Fourthly, his weakness. Even though John was fearless, he had his time of despondency and doubt. In his imprisonment he began to question whether in fact Jesus was the promised Messiah. So doubtful was he, that he could not rest until Christ's reassurance that He indeed was the Messiah. In our moments of despair, darkness and deprivation let us take heart from John, and seek a sign as a source of strength.
So on the feast of the nativity of John Baptist let us too prepare a way for the Lord to come into our hearts. Let us remove the barriers of sin by confession and repentance; let us straighten the paths of our life, which so often are undirected and devious; let us pave the way of true faith with good works. Let us rid ourselves of all arrogance and live as the Holy Spirit wants us. Then, when all is in order, smoothed, and brought into harmony, we shall see the salvation of God as he is, for "his home is in peace and his dwelling in Zion".

Marianne Dorman
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There was a man sent from God whose name was John.
The same came for a witness to bear witness of the Light,
that all men through him might believe.
He was not that Light. But was sent to bear witness of that Light.

John's clothing was a rough coat of camel's hair,
with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.
Everyone flocked to him from Jerusalem, Judaea.
and the Jordan valley, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.