|Reading 1||Response||Reading 2||Gospel|
|Is 49:1-6||Ps 139:1b-3, 13-14ab, 14c-15||Acts 13:22-26||Lk 1:57-66, 80|
|Lectionary note: Reading options based on celebration|
|The Lectionary presents two sets of readings for The Nativity of John the Baptist: The vigil of the Nativity of John the Baptist or The day of the Nativity of John the Baptist. This commentary uses the readings for The day of the Nativity of John the Baptist.|
The Baptizer’s call to prepare and change
The Solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist asks RCIA participants and believing community to recall how the Baptizer precedes Jesus in fulfillment of God’s saving plan.
The first reading is from the Deutero-Isaiah’s second Suffering Servant song. Jewish hearers understand the servant song as describing the Jewish people as a whole. From their earliest days, the Christian believing community read these prophetic songs as foretelling Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection. The Lectionary editors link the reading’s themes of “naming in the womb” and prophecy with the Baptizer’s birth and mission.
In the second reading from Acts, Luke recalls Paul and Barnabas’ first missionary journey to preach to the gentiles. Paul makes his first proclamation in the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia. The Lectionary editors chose this reading because Paul includes the Baptizer’s role as precursor to Jesus (v 24-25) in his kerygmatic speech.
In the gospel, Luke presents the Baptizer as a prophet and Jesus’ precursor. Using repeating literary structures, Luke parallels the annunciations, births, circumcisions, and summaries of the Baptizer and Jesus to show how John prepares for Jesus:
- Annunciation (Lk 1:11-20/Lk 1:26-38). The same angel, Gabriel, appears to Zechariah and to Mary. Gabriel tells both “Do not fear,” promises both they will have sons who will be “great,” and tells them the names of their sons. Gabriel then gives both a specific sign (Zechariah’s muteness; Mary’s cousin Elizabeth’s conception) as a proof of God’s action.
- Birth (Lk 1:57-58/Lk 2:6-20). At the Baptizer’s birth the neighbors rejoice; at Jesus’ birth the hearers are astonished and the shepherds praise God.
- Circumcision (Lk 1:57-66/ Lk 2:21-33). Both boys are circumcised on the eighth day, according to Jewish law, and are named according to Gabriel’s instructions. Zechariah’s speech is restored when he names his son John. Zechariah and Elizabeth’s neighbors are awed by God’s action; Mary and Joseph are amazed by the prophecies about Jesus.
- Summary (Lk 1:80/Lk 2:21-33). The Baptizer “grew and became strong in spirit;” Jesus “grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.”
John the Baptizer’s life foreshadows Jesus’ life, but Luke is careful to show how Jesus is greater than John.
This feast celebrates the birth of the Baptizer, recalling how his preaching and prophecy paved the way for Jesus. As Paul reminds his listeners in the second reading, the Baptizer called the people to metanoia (change of mind/heart) and to baptism as a sign of change. The sacrament of Baptism forgives sin, incorporates us into the believing community, and is a witness to our discipleship. The holy water we encounter when we enter a church building reminds us of our baptisms and our discipleship promises. Metanoia is not a one-time action; it is a continuous need. As we again hear the Baptizer’s prophetic call to conversion, we must ask: Am I doing all I should? What else should I be doing?