Today on the feast of the birth of St. John the Baptist, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims gathered under the hot June sun in St. Peter’s Square for the Sunday recitation of the Angelus. To a packed crowd, the vicar of Christ recalled the example of John the Baptist. His message to those gathered was to engage in true conversion and an ardent witness of the Lord.
The Holy Father noted that all the Gospels begin their narration of Jesus’ public life with his baptism by John in the Jordan. Benedict also commented on his new book: “My book Jesus of Nazareth also begins with the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, an event which resounded widely in those times.”
Benedict noted that John’s life “was wholly oriented towards Christ”. Therefore, “to commemorate his birth means in reality to celebrate Christ.”
Explaining the mission of the saint, the Holy Father said, “He remains as the first “witness” to Jesus, having received an indication from Heaven.”
John knew how to give a courageous witness: “As an authentic prophet, John gave witness to the truth without compromise. He denounced the transgressions of God’s commandments, even when those who did so were powerful. In this way, when he accused Herod and Herodias, he paid with his life, sealing with martyrdom his service to Christ.”
He is, therefore, a prophet and model for our times: “Let us invoke his intercession, together with that of Mary Most Holy, so that also in our times the Church may know how to keep herself as a Virgin faithful to Christ, and witness courageously his truth and his love for all.”
After the angelus, the Pope directed these words towards the English-speaking pilgrims: “let us ask for the gift of true conversion and growth in holiness, so that our lives will prepare a way for the Lord and hasten the coming of his Kingdom.”