The Church has looked to St. John the Baptist for inspiration for two thousand years. We see John as being especially tuned in to the Holy Spirit. The Spirit incites John to move for joy at the closeness of Jesus even while in the womb. John’s experience of the Spirit allows him to be certain that he, himself, is not the Messiah but that one is coming who will fill that role. It is after John’s baptism of Jesus that we have the apparition of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove and it is the Spirit who inspires John to point to Jesus declaring him to be the Lamb of God. Filled with the Spirit, John could stand up even to King Herod to proclaim the truth. This special affinity for the Holy Spirit makes John an appropriate patron for the post-Pentecost Church.
It is interesting to note that the feast day for a saint, by tradition, falls on or near the day of their death if it is known or, if not known, on a day that is appropriate for them. Since we do not know the date of St. John’s martyrdom, the Church has placed it in June, after the longest day of the year. The days now grow shorter, reminding us that we should follow the teaching of John the Baptist who said “I must decrease so that he might increase. Let our own egotism and selfishness decrease so that Christ might increase within us.”
As we celebrate this feast of St. John the Baptist, may we be resolved to, like John the Baptist, be examples of humble fidelity and so make straight the way of the Lord.