Saint John the Baptist - Feast Day: June 24
(Patron Saint for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Paterson)
The figure of Saint John the Baptist is closely associated with the desert, a place of ascetic life and, in the light of the history of Israel, a place where the grace of God can be encountered. It is from the desert, according to the prophecy of Isaiah; that the Precursor of the Messiah was to have come.
Saint John, the Precursor. (Statue of St. John the Baptist - "Church" Ein Karem, Jerusalem)
The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel. (Luke 1: 80)
In the fifteenth year of the Reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, Lysanias was retrarch of Abilene, and during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert. John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
"Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths".
Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God. (Isaiah 40: 3-4) (Luke 3: 2-4)
(The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 1: 57-80.)
The time came for Elizabeth to have her child, and she gave birth to a son; and when her neighbors and relations heard that the Lord had lavished on her his faithful love, they shared her joy. Now it happened that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother spoke up. "No", she said, "he is to be called John'". They said to her, "But no one in your family has that name," and made signs to his father to find out what he wanted him to be called. The father asked for a writing-tablet and wrote, "His name is John" and they were astonished. At that instant his power of speech returned and he spoke and praised God. All their neighbors were filled with awe and the whole affair was talked about throughout the hill country of Judea. All those who heard of it treasured it in their hearts. "What will this child turn out to be?" they wondered. And indeed the hand of the Lord was with him. His father Zechariah, filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy: "Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has visited his people, he has set them free, and he has established for us a saving power in the House of his servant David, just as he proclaimed, by the mouth of his holy prophets from ancient times, that he would save us from our enemies and from the hands of those who hate us, and show faithful love to our ancestors, and so keep in mind his holy covenant. This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham, that he would grant us free from fear, to be delivered from the hands of our enemies, to serve him in holiness and uprightness in his presence, all of our days. And you, little child, you shall be called Prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare a way for him, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of faithful love of our God in which the rising Sun has come from on high to visit us, to give light to those who live in darkness and the shadow dark as death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace". Meanwhile the child grew and his spirit grew strong. And he lived in the desert until the day he appeared openly to Israel.
(The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 1: 13-17.)
But the Angel said to him:
"Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth...And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous--to make ready a people for the Lord".