Dear Friends in Christ:
This weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. As such, it takes precedence in the liturgical calendar over the Sunday in Ordinary Time. You will notice that the bulletin cover has a photo of our new statue of St. John Baptist. You may also note that the feast day of the birth of St. John the Baptist (June 24) is exactly six months and one day before the celebration of the birth of Jesus! Now, was Jesus actually born on December 25 or John the Baptist on June 24? Probably not. Yet we observe these days as the celebrations of their births. This feast day stands out in a number of ways. Most saints’ feast days are on or near the day of their death, the dies natalis (birthday) commemorating their birth into eternal life. St. John the Baptist has two feast days: his dies natalis commemorated on August 29, which is called the Memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist (or the Beheading of St. John the Baptist), and his nativity, which we celebrate on June 24. Besides Jesus, whose conception, birth, death, resurrection and ascension we commemorate, the only other person in addition to St. John the Baptist that the Church celebrates both their birth day and birth day into eternity is the Blessed Virgin Mary. We celebrate the Blessed Mother’s birth on September 8 and her Assumption into Heaven on August 15. As a side note, St. Joseph has two feast days (March 19 and May 1) but neither are associated with his birth or death.
Why is any of this important? Look to your own family. Do we not celebrate the birth day of our family members? Likewise, do we not remember the anniversary of the death of a loved one? These are import days in our lives, because our loved ones are important in our lives. What is odd is not our remembering or commemorating births and deaths, but when we don’t! When we fail to observe these moments, we weaken not just the memory of the person, but also ourselves. Commemorating the birthdays and anniversaries of death of loved ones strengthens our bond as a family. In the Church, we celebrate not just those moments of Jesus’ life but also of those associated and united to him – his mother, foster father, cousin, grandparents, aunt and uncle, apostles and disciples, and the saints through the centuries. We celebrate them precisely because in Jesus, we are all family.
There is a danger to our faith and our humanity when we fail to remember and celebrate these important life moments. In the Church when we forget to celebrate the saints, we can lose our bearings as to how God is always with us providing help and example. In our families, when we overlook the significance of life events such as births, baptisms, marriages, ordinations and deaths we begin to forget one another. Neglect of these moments soon translates to the neglect of these persons, which in turn leads to neglect of others. The celebration of birth and death is one of the means that we have to see how good God is in that He gives us life and He offers us eternal life in Jesus. The Church calls on us to celebrate the gift of life and the gift of eternal life. It is precisely in the celebration and commemoration that we can see not simply how blessed this saint was or this person is, but also how blessed we ARE by God! The lives of the saints inspire us to become saints and to live our lives to the fullest by loving and serving God.
St. John the Baptist, Pray for us!
In Pace Christi,
Fr. Troy Gately