On June 24, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist. John the Baptist was Jesus’ cousin, and he baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. John led a simple life. He was only concerned with the Kingdom of God and always spoke of love and truth. He is a model of how to live a life in Christ.
John the Baptist’s parents were Zechariah and Elizabeth. Elizabeth was related to Jesus’ mother, Mary. Elizabeth had no children, so Zechariah and Elizabeth prayed to God to help them. One day, the Angel Gabriel visited Elizabeth and Zechariah and told them they would have a son and that they should name him John. The angel told them that John would “be great in the sight of [the] Lord” (Luke 1:15).
Mary visited Elizabeth when Elizabeth was pregnant with John. John, filled with the Holy Spirit, leapt with joy in Elizabeth’s womb when Mary greeted her relative. Elizabeth understood that the child Mary carried was to be the Son of God.
“I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11)
When Jesus was about 30 years old, he went to the Jordan River and asked John to baptize him. John’s response to Jesus was, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” (Matthew 3:14). Jesus told John to baptize him anyway. When he did, the heavens opened and the voice of God spoke, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3: 17). At Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit came upon him. This anointing by the Holy Spirit established Jesus as priest, prophet, and king.
John baptized people on the Jordan River as a symbol of conversion. He taught that Jesus has the power to baptize with the Holy Spirit.
Today, Baptism is the first of the Seven Sacraments that we receive as Catholics and the foundation of Christian life. At Baptism we are either immersed or water is poured on our head three times in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. We are anointed with oil, recalling Jesus’ anointing. We are clothed with a baptismal garment, symbolizing putting on Christ, and receive a candle, signifying the light of Christ.
The grace of Baptism gives us the power to live and act as disciples of Christ in the world.
Download an intermediate activity that invites students to remember and reflect on their own Baptisms. In the Baptismal Remembrance Activity, children recall details from their Baptisms and consider ways they share the light of Christ each day.
John taught those who followed him to turn to Christ. He called Jesus the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29). In all that John did, he pointed his followers toward Christ instead of calling attention to himself. In the Gospel of John, we read that some Pharisees questioned John: “’Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet?’ John answered them, "I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie” (John 1:25–27). John lived a humble life. We can adopt this same humility in our own lives. When we do good works, we should do them out of love and in God’s name, not for our personal recognition or gain.
After he baptized Jesus, John's popularity grew and this upset King Herod. Herod had John arrested and imprisoned. This did not stop John. He continued to speak about Christ and about living a good life. John’s example teaches us that sometimes we have to go against social ideologies when we live the life Jesus taught us to live. We must put God first even if this means our decisions might be unpopular or unaccepted by society.
In learning about John the Baptist’s life, we can be inspired to enjoy a simple life and be grateful for what God has given us. We can remember to always do good deeds out of love and to draw any attention gained from these good deeds to God’s universal message of love. We can be empowered to put God first in all of our decisions even if these decisions are not socially popular. We can use John’s example to help us live the life Jesus calls us to live.
Pray for the intercession of Saint John the Baptist, to imitate his virtues, and to remind all those we meet about Jesus.