This Week's Liturgy
Strong in Spirit
June 24th, 2012 (see other dates)
The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
Discussion Questions for Reading 1When is your birthday? How do you celebrate it? Every birthday is a chance for a new beginning in our lives. Each one of us can say to God, "I praise you for I am wonderfully made." Celebrate John's birthday by praising God for all of his gifts to you, especially the ones you take for granted: the ability to think, to read, to write, to be friends with someone, to be a good son or daughter or brother or sister. How can you be a prophet and "point out Jesus" to someone? Remember, words and actions together are what count! How can you spread light in the world and not darkness?
Reading 1 Isaiah 49:1-6
Reading 1 Reflection
In this reading, the Church puts the words of the prophet Isaiah into the mouth of John the Baptist. Jesus praised John, saying, "Among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist." (Matthew 11:11) The role of a prophet is to speak God's word. John the Baptist not only spoke God's word, he pointed out to the people the Word of God made flesh, Jesus. John the Baptist was the light who pointed toward the greater Light.
We usually celebrate a saint's feast on the day of their "birth into heaven," that is, the day of their death. The birthdays of John the Baptist, Jesus and of the Blessed Virgin Mary are the only three birthdays in the liturgical calendar that the Church celebrates. This shows how important John's day of birth was to us. It was a day of God's saving grace that we do not want to forget! (The name John means "gift of God.")
The position of the sun in the northern hemisphere was one reason why June 24 was chosen as the feast of John's birthday. June 24 is just after the summer solstice, when the sun is at its highest point in the sky. From now until December 24, the sun will get lower and lower in the sky. The days will get shorter and shorter. Then, at the birth of Jesus on December 25, just after the winter solstice, the sun will start "rising" again. The ancients linked this greater sunlight after December 25 to the coming of the Light of the World at Christmas. So John's birth at the sun's high point of summer prepares us for Jesus' birth. John is the "precursor"?the one who comes before. John's birthday today says: Six more months until Christmas! Six more months until we celebrate once again that the true Light of the World has come among us! The very date of John's birthday is a prophecy to us. The birth of John the Baptist points us to the birth of Christ.
Discussion Questions for Reading 2We may not draw crowds. People may not come to us for advice. But we can still be like John the Baptist in his humility and in his knowledge of self. How can you be humble and down to earth? Are there times when you are tempted to be snobbish, to associate only with "certain people"? Are you ever tempted to be someone you know you are not? Self-knowledge and humility does not mean focusing on our faults and weaknesses, although it might include being aware of them. It also means knowing what we are good at, how we can help or improve a situation, developing our talents, and giving God the glory and thanks for them.
Make a list of your talents and good points. Then ask John the Baptist for the grace to give thanks to God for them and to be honest and "down to earth" with others.
Reading 2 Acts 13: 22-26
Reading 2 ReflectionThese verses from the Acts of the Apostles show that the role of John the Baptist was well known and honored by the early Christians. John the Baptist was someone who knew who he was and who he was not. Certainly, he gathered crowds. Many people came for advice. He told them to repent and he baptized them with water as a sign of repentance. But he always said, "Look for the one who comes after me." John the Baptist had humility. The word humility comes from humus, meaning "earth." When we find someone with humility today, we may not use that word. We may simply say that this person does not "put on airs," or "act like a snob." We may say that this person is "down to earth."
Discussion Questions for GospelWhen God sends us to do his work, he first prepares us. He gives us people who care. Whatever name we are called, we too are "gifts of God." When we use our gifts for good today, everyone says, "You are going to do great things in the future." Who are the people who care about you? Do you see yourself as a gift of God? How can you remind yourself that you are? How are you using your gifts? What do you hope to become in the future? How could you be like John and work for God in this world? How could you work for God today?
Gospel Luke 1:57-66, 80
Gospel ReflectionThis account of the birth of John the Baptist is one special message from God after another. First of all, John's mother was past the usual age of child-bearing. John was an unexpected gift from God. (Remember, the name John means "gift of God".) When Zechariah agreed that, indeed, this child's name was "gift," he could once again speak and bless God. The neighbors certainly got the message?and wondered in awe, "What will this child be?"
Proclaiming Faith Activities for Primary Grades
A Birthday GraphIn the gospel reading we hear about the birth of John the Baptist. John became a prophet who was like a light pointing the way to Jesus.
Make a birthday graph. Reproduce the birthday cake twelve times. On each cake write one name of a month of the year. Reproduce a candle for each child and write his/her name on it. Attach the candles to the cake corresponding to the month of the child's birthday. Explain to the children just as John shined the way to Jesus, each of us is encouraged to be a light in our world.
Birthday GreetingsInvite the children to celebrate the births of others by making cards for the elderly. Give each child an 8½" by 11" piece of construction paper folded in half. Provide markers, stickers, and various art materials for use in creating the cards. When the cards are completed, bring them to a facility that cares for the elderly. Invite them to distribute the cards as needed.
Proclaiming Faith Activities
Good Advice from John the BaptistIn Luke 3:10-14, we find a sample of the preaching of John the Baptist. The people asked him, "What should we do to be ready for the Messiah?" He told the people to live their ordinary lives in the best possible way. In modern slang, we might say that he told them: "Clean up your act!"
Read Luke 3:10-14. Then consider: If John the Baptist came to your group to give you ways to live your ordinary life in the best possible way, what would he say? Be specific. Try to think of five things you think John would say. Write them here or on another piece of paper. Then post them in a special place and try to live them!
Saint John's Day PicnicThe feast of John the Baptist is a very important day for the people of Puerto Rico. The capital city, San Juan, was named after him. One of the California missions, San Juan Bautista, was named for John the Baptist. He is also the patron saint of Quebec in Canada.
Picnics are a traditional way of celebrating Saint John's birthday, probably because the weather is usually so beautiful in June! It may also be because Saint John lived "in the wilderness," so we commemorate him by eating outdoors in a natural setting. Why not plan a picnic on or near Saint John's Day? In some places, a "Saint John's fire" is lit in the evening, perhaps originally in honor of the summer solstice. Under the supervision of a responsible adult, you may want to end your picnic with a campfire. Roast marshmallows and celebrate Saint John's birthday!
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