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We celebrate the feast of John the Baptist's birth today because of John’s prominent role in the history of salvation as the forerunner of the Messiah. It was John the Baptist who prepared Israel to receive their long-awaited Messiah by preaching repentance.
Since John was the forerunner of Jesus and prepared Israel for their Messiah, the “Servant” Messianic prophecy of Isaiah is given in the first reading. The passage expresses important aspects of John’s career as a prophet to God’s people and a light to the nations who was named and sanctified from his mother’s womb. The second reading describes the mission of John the Baptist. It tells us how John the Baptist in all humility publicly acknowledged his role as being only the Messiah’s herald. His role was to prepare Israel to receive the Messiah by inviting the people to receive the baptism of repentance. Today’s Gospel describes the birth of John the Baptist and his circumcision and naming ceremony on the eighth day. In the presence of friends and relatives, Zechariah miraculously regained his power of speech after declaring in writing, “John is his name.” The name John means “God is gracious.” It was the name which God had commanded the child be given, and it described the parents' gratitude for this unexpected joy. The miraculous birth of the child to the elderly parents, the miraculous healing received by Zechariah and his prophetic hymn about the mission of his son prompted the people gathered there to ask the question, "What will this child turn out to be?"

Excerpted from the homily of Fr Tony Kadavil available at