A few extra-biblical things you probably didn’t know about St. John the Baptist

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When King Herod heard from the Magi about the birth of the Messiah, he decided to kill all the infants up to two years old at Bethlehem and the surrounding area, hoping that the new-born Messiah would be among them.

Herod knew about John’s unusual birth and he wanted to kill him, fearing that he was the foretold King of the Jews. But Elizabeth hid herself and the infant in the hills. The murderers searched everywhere for John. Elizabeth, when she saw her pursuers, began to implore God for their safety, and immediately the hill opened up and concealed her and the infant from their pursuers.

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Editor’s note: We know from scripture that St. John the Baptist was born during Passover, in the spring. We also know that St. John was conceived and subsequently born 6 months before Jesus Christ – meaning that Jesus was most likely born in the month of September or October. (Add 6 to 3 or 4 and you get September or October – NOT December.)

But Jesus may well have been conceived in late December, so there’s still plenty of reason for joy. Plus – there have been a number of modifications (not to mention outright errors and “slippage”) to the calendar over the years, so December 25 may be correct, after all!

Merry Christmas! 

John the Baptist, Unborn Witness to Christ

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John the Baptist, Unborn Witness to Christ

The touching story of the two unborn children who were present at the Visitation should give us a reason to rejoice with Elizabeth and Mary at the dawning of our salvation. While the mothers basked in the overwhelming grace of the moment, the older of the two children was already working for our salvation in the way decreed for him by the Almighty from all eternity. That little baby was announcing the coming of the Savior even from the womb!

One has to marvel at the life of St. John the Baptist whose feast we celebrate each year on June 24th. Perhaps we take him for granted because his story is so familiar to us, but his vocation to holiness is beyond comparison with any other saint in history. With the exception of Jesus’ most holy Mother, never has there been a human being so perfectly united to the Person of Christ than John. He was so perfect a man that Jesus Himself said that there was “no man born of woman greater than John.” Great men of the world exalt themselves over their subjects as a way to assert their grandeur; yet, John’s greatness was precisely in lowering himself to the depths of the earth (i.e., the Dead Sea, geographically the world’s lowest point on land) and turning the attention of men away from himself onto Another. What worldly man does that? A man who lives in the desert and wears camel hair garments is hardly going to be accepted among the movers-and-shakers of society, but it was this greatest of men who said that he actually had to decrease if he were to fulfill his essential mission. Truly John’s was a life of striking paradoxes which, when examined closely, point out the holiness of the man whose whole existence was to bear witness to Holiness Himself.

John’s greatest witness was not in his words, however. It was in his actions. We know of only two actions outside of his baptizing and preaching that give us a window into this man’s pure soul: his joyful leap in the womb of Elizabeth and his ultimate act of self-sacrifice in martyrdom. In birth and death he was the Lord’s, as in every other moment of his existence. His pre-natal rejoicing at the Christ Child wordlessly proclaimed that all children, no matter the circumstances of their conception or birth, are unqualified blessings to us, joyful additions to the human family of which God never repents. We have the testimony of the “greatest man born of woman” as our witness to the sanctity of each and every human life!

John also valiantly embraced the multiple crosses of his life: penitence, suffering, imprisonment and beheading before the Perfect Sacrifice of the Cross was consummated. No wonder the scriptures tell us that even the wicked Herod, “felt the attraction of his words.” John had that rare integrity of life that filled his words with grace. It was his life, his appearance, his humility, his mission and his gift of self that make John attractive to all generations, especially those who suffer injustice for the cause of righteousness.

I have no doubt that if John the Baptist were alive today he would be standing in front of abortion clinics witnessing to the unborn Christ in each child, calling people to account for their promiscuity, challenging the powers that keep this immoral industry in business, healing the wounded souls victimized by abortion, washing men clean of their sins that lead to death, teaching us to find joy even in our suffering and ready to lay down his own life so that others could live.

Truly there is no greater man born of woman than John the Baptist. He is the Unborn Witness to Christ who shows us the way out of the culture of death; if only we will listen to the silent eloquence of that little baby leaping in his mother’s womb.

Sincerely,

Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer,

President, Human Life International