Jun 24 – Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist
John the Baptist (d.30) was the cousin of Jesus Christ. His father, Zachary, was a priest of the order of Abia whose job in the Temple was to burn incense; and of Elizabeth, a descendant of Aaron. As Zachary was ministering in the Temple, an angel brought him news that Elizabeth would bear a child filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment of his birth. Zachary doubted and was struck dumb until John’s birth.
John began his ministry as prophet around age 27, wearing a leather belt and a tunic of camel hair, living off locusts and wild honey, and preaching a message of repentance to the people of Jerusalem. He converted many, and prepared the way for the coming of Jesus. After baptizing Christ, he told his disciples to follow Jesus.
Imprisoned by King Herod, John the Baptist died a victim of the vengeance of a jealous woman; he was beheaded, and his head brought to her on a platter. St. Jerome says Herodias kept the head for a long time after, occasionally stabbing the tongue with her dagger because of what John had said in life.
- Patron Saint Index
Lk 1:57-66, 80
The Lord called me before I was born.
This is one of the verses I hold closely to my heart ever since my conversion experience in 2011. I never knew God loved me so much until then. I always thought that it was I who chose Him. But it was He who chose me. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” — Jer 1:5
I was not a cradle Catholic. But as a child, I had the deep desire to be Christian. The seed must have been planted in my Catholic school education. In primary school, I was envious of my friends for attending Catechism classes. So one day I asked my parents if I could go as well. They didn’t object, so there I was, the only non-Catholic girl in Catechism class. At the time, I didn’t understand what it meant, only that it seemed ‘cool’ — as opposed to the ‘uncool’ rituals my dad made to go through and how my aunt would take me to these Taoist temples where these ‘monks’ would go into trance and give me amulets to wear/ingest etc. I really hated it, I felt uncomfortable and a bit scared even. I don’t know why.
In my early teens, I went with my friends to a Christian Church and I remained there for most of my teenage years. For the first time, I had a Christian community, I learnt to pray and worship. The worship songs spoke to my heart. Christmas was always a big production. Everyone had a part to play in the Christmas concert/cantata, which we practiced for months. One day, during my ‘O’ level year, my dad put a stop to my churchgoing as he felt that I was spending way too much time in church, and on church activities. Looking back, I don’t begrudge him. He did what any parent would have done. He wanted to make sure I was studying and not using church as an excuse.
This was the beginning of my desert years. I stayed away from the church with no one to push me nor was there any ‘obligation’ to attend service/mass. I was too busy trying to find myself as an individual and establishing a career as any young adult would. God was somewhere in the back of my mind, but He was present. He never deserted me. In the midst of these dry years, I got baptised at the age of 26. I don’t think I fully understood the magnitude of what it meant then, but I was so happy to be finally accepted into the faith. I don’t remember anyone at my baptism except for my godparents. I was also blessed to be able to attend mass at a Catholic Church within walking distance from home.
My journey in faith isn’t an upward trajectory, even after baptism and especially when I moved to China for work. So for 3 years, I didn’t attend mass. There were no churches in China, just some underground ones. I share these details of my journey today, the ups and downs of my faith journey because I truly believe that God calls each of us. He called me. Can you believe it? Me! He calls you too. And when He has His sight set on us, He never lets us go. Even during my desert years, He never gave up on me. I will make you the light of the nations, so that my salvation may reach the ends of the earth.
Like John the Baptist, who was the forerunner of Jesus, his vocation was to preach and prepare the way for the coming of Jesus. What is our vocation? What is our purpose in this life? I think about those questions constantly. And I don’t have the answer. Yet. But I know that God chose me and you for a reason. Like everyone wondered at the birth of John The Baptist ‘What will this child turn out to be?’ Nobody knew at the time, but his vocation turned out to be awesome, so magnificent and so integral to our salvation. Even in his mother’s womb, John recognizes Jesus. And John baptised Jesus. Everyone has a role and a part. What is yours? What will you turn out to be? What’s mine?
We may not know the answers now, nor will we know the answer till we come face to face with God. But this is a journey, every step is God’s plan if we let Him lead. We have to stay true and faithful, my brothers and sisters. Persevere even if you are in your desert days. Because God chose you.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)
Prayer: Father, quieten down my heart and mind that I might hear you. You have chosen me to be a light in the world. By your grace, help me to live my life according to your plans. May my heart be malleable. Help me to never be afraid to proclaim Your word and to speak of Your name!
Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for choosing me. Thank you for not giving up on me, even when I left you. Thank you for being always by my side.