|The Birth of Saint John the Baptist 1655, by Bartolome-Esteban Murillo|
Each year a Sunday at this time in June would be one of Ordinary Time. However, June 24 is the feast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, and the importance of this feast supersedes a regular Sunday Mass. We recall from the Gospel of St. Luke that, when the Angel announced to Mary that she would be the mother of the Most High, he informed her that her kinswoman Elizabeth had conceived and that she was in her sixth month. So, here we are six months before the commemoration of the birth of our Lord, and we celebrate the birth of his cousin who prepared and heralded his coming.St. John the Baptist was a major prophet, a spokesman for God. He courageously taught only the truth. He preached a baptism of repentance. Only by renouncing their sins could people open their minds and hearts to the Son of God. He baptized with water, a symbol of the desire of having sins washed away. The Baptist knew that Jesus would institute a Baptism of water and Spirit to take sins away and to incorporate the baptized into the family of God.St. John was a martyr because he said what was true; he could not do otherwise. He condemned Herod’s marriage as being unlawful. Herod was the tetrarch of Galilee. He responded to John’s accusation by arresting him and eventually having him beheaded.How can one teach something that isn’t true? How could one compromise the truth? For the sake of an easier life? To keep one’s life? St. John the Baptist was a true witness to the teachings of Christ. Anyone who has character, including all who are members of Christ in his Church, are called to be like the Baptist. We are committed to the whole truth. This is the reason why the Church sees the government’s HHS mandate as plainly wrong. This law would force Catholic institutions to go against their conscience and pay insurance companies to provide contraceptive coverage for their employees. The truth respects religious freedom -- the freedom of conscience.So, like St. John the Baptist, the Church will go on teaching and defending what is true and just. She will do so in spite of opposition because she cannot do otherwise. Let us stand and pray together.