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Prophet, Born and Unborn

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We celebrate on Tuesday, June 24, the nativity of St. John the Baptist, the last prophet of the era of the Old Testament who proclaimed the coming of the Lord (see Mt 3:1-12), recognized Jesus both in the womb (see Lk 1:39-45) and at the edge of the River Jordan (see Mt 3:13-17; Jn 1:29-34), and who was beheaded as a result of opposing a governmental redefinition of marriage (see Mk 6:17-29; Mt 14:3-12). (That last part sounds eerily relevant these days.)

John knew Jesus and spoke the truth that he saw. He proclaimed the coming of the kingdom of heaven, and announced that the Lamb of God had arrived. This service of the truth ran straight through his whole life.

His father, Zecheriah, prophesied about his son the prophet, saying:

"Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
for He has visited and brought redemption to His people.
He has raised up a horn for our salvation
within the house of David His servant,
even as He promised through the mouth of His holy prophets from of old:
salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us,
to show mercy to our fathers
and to be mindful of His holy covenant
and of the oath He swore to Abraham our father,
and to grant us that,
rescued from the hand of enemies,
without fear we might worship Him
in holiness and righteousness
before Him all our days.
And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways,
to give His people knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God
by which the daybreak from on high will visit us
to shine on those who sit in darkness and death's shadow,
to guide our feet into the path of peace." — Lk 1:67-79

The prophet John the Baptist saw the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and proclaimed what he saw. He was then martyred for the truth. But he's not the only one. The roll call of saints and prophets include a large number who suffered and died for the sake of God, and their number continues to grow today. Pope Francis said this in a recent interview with a journalist from the paper Vanguardia:

The persecuted Christians are a concern that touches me very deeply as a pastor. I know a lot about persecutions but it doesn't seem prudent to talk about them here so I don't offend anyone. But in some places it is prohibited to have a Bible or teach the catechism or wear a cross ... What I would like to be clear on is one thing, I am convinced that the persecution against Christians today is stronger than in the first centuries of the Church. Today there are more Christian martyrs than in that period. And, it's not because of fantasy, it's because of the numbers.

On this nativity of St. John the Baptist, let's ask for his intercession for all those being persecuted for the sake of the Lamb of God all over the world, that they may be steadfast in their faith, constant in their hope, and unwavering in their love for the Lord. Ask him to pray for us all that we may be authentic witnesses to the truth and the love of the Lord Jesus, no matter what opposition or difficulties we face.

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