‘The Lord called me before I was born; while I was in my mother’s womb, He named me...’ — Isaiah 49:1

(Editor’s note: This column is also based on the Scripture readings Isaiah 49:1-6; Ps 139 and Acts 13:22-26.)

When we look to the saints whom we celebrate in our liturgical calendar, the feast day assigned usually falls on the day into which they are born into eternal life — the day they died.

There are only two saints for whom we celebrate their birthdays: the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist. (Of course, we celebrate the birth of Jesus on Christmas, but He is more than a saint: He’s God!)

It is interesting to note that only Luke’s Gospel actually states (Lk 1:57-66,80) that John was the blood relative, the cousin of the Lord Jesus. How­ever, we know for certain that there was a strong, intrinsic bond between John the Baptist and Jesus.

Jesus Himself proclaims the fact that there is no man born of woman greater than John the Baptist. In fact, there were many people who truly believed that John was the Christ, and there were many people who left everything to follow him.

Why not John?

There must have been a reason why so many people believed, at first, that John was the Messiah. John fit the part of the Old Testament prophet much better than Jesus did. Wearing clothes of camel hair and a leather belt around his waist, John looked the part.

Add to that his diet of wild honey and locusts and, above all, his consistent message of repentance in preparation for the coming of the kingdom of God, and John — perhaps even more than Jesus — looked like a new version of Hosea, Ezekiel, Isaiah or Elijah.

Imagine being John the Baptist. Imagine the whole world hanging on your every word, your every action. Now, remember that messiahs, or rather people claiming to be the messiah, were a dime a dozen in Jerusa­lem. Every Jewish mother was hoping and praying that it would be her little boy who would grow up to be the savior of his people. Perhaps Elizabeth was the same.

Yet, John does not let the fame and adulation go to his head. He knows who he is and what he is meant to be: “He must increase, I must decrease.”

Enough for him

John is able to do this because he knows who he is: not the messiah, but the forerunner of the Messiah, the one selected from all eternity to point the way to the Lamb of God, who is going to take away the sins of the world.

John knows that he is a beloved child of God Most High, created in the image and likeness of almighty God. That’s enough for him.

This is true humility and openness to the will of the Lord. This can only come from self-knowledge and confidence in the place that the Lord has for us in the building up of His kingdom.

Do we know, really know, who we are? Do we recognize that we are not the Messiah — that God is God and we’re not — and thank God for that?

Do we recognize that we are creature, not Creator, completely dependent on the one who loves us; and that every breath we take is totally dependent on the gracious will of our heavenly Father?