Today, we solemnly celebrate the Nativity of the Baptist. St. John is a man of contrasts: he lives in the silence of the desert, but right from there he appeals to the crowds with convincing voice inviting them to convert; he is humble enough to say he is only the voice, not the Word, but he does not mince his words and dares to accuse and denounce all injustices even to the very king; he urges his disciples to meet with Jesus, but he does not mind rebuking king Herod while he is in prison. Silent and humble, he is also strong and courageous enough to shed his blood. John the Baptist is a great man!, the greatest of them all, as Jesus himself will say in praise, but he is only Christ's precursor.
Perhaps, the secret of his greatness is the realization of knowing he has been chosen by God; this is how the evangelist explains it: «And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel» (Lk 1:80). All his childhood and youth was marked by the understanding of his mission: to provide testimony; which he does by baptizing Christ in the river Jordan, by favorably disposing the crowds for the Lord and, at the end of his life, by shedding his blood in favour of the truth. With our knowledge about John, we could answer the question his contemporary was wondering about: «What will this child be?» (Lk 1:66).
Through the baptism, we have been all chosen and sent to bear witness of the Lord. In an environment of indifference, St. John is a helping example to imitate; St. Augustine says: «Admire John as much as you can for, whom you admire is profitable to Christ. I insist, he is profitable to Christ, not because you offer anything to Him, but because of your being able to progress in Him». In John, his attitude as a Messenger, clearly explicit in attentive prayer to the Spirit, in his fortitude and humility, helps us to establish new horizons of sanctity for us and for our brother.