Reflecting on Luke 1: 57-66, 80
How can John the Baptist be a saint? Thanks to Herod Antipas’s drunken promise at his birthday party to give his step-daughter Salome whatever she wished, John was beheaded in the dungeons of Machaerus long before the crucifixion of Jesus. That means he wasn’t around for the resurrection either, or for Pentecost. The Baptizer was never baptized into the body of Christ. Technically, then, he wasn’t even a Christian.
I’ll do you one better. Did you know that there were three people in history born without original sin? Let’s see. There’s Mary―and I confess I was 25 before I realized that the Feast of the Immaculate Conception was about HER, not Jesus―and then Jesus, of course. I count two.
Give up? It’s John the Baptist. Here’s why. Catholic doctrine and tradition hold that, because he leapt in Elizabeth’s womb when Mary entered the home of Elizabeth and Zechariah, he was cleansed of original sin and became filled with the Holy Spirit in the womb. Since sin and the Spirit can’t exist together, the Church extrapolates that he was born without original sin. At his birth, then, he was as sinless as babies are after their baptisms. But, like all of us (except Jesus and Mary, who were conceived without original sin), he was subject to sin and death after his birth.
John is the transitional saint between the Old and New Testament. Everything about him, from his birth, to his challenging presence in the desert, to his pointing to Jesus as the Lamb of God, to his horrific death for speaking truth to power, is prophetic. On this day, two billion people commemorate his birthday. Herod Antipas? Not so much.
What is your favorite story about John the Baptist?
Kathy McGovern ©2018