The feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist is historically and culturally very important in this country because it’s a ‘Quarter day’, one of the signposts in the year when rents used to be due (like Lady Day), and it more or less coincides too with Midsummer Day, the longest day of the year. The detailed account at the beginning of Luke’s gospel of his conception and birth witness to his importance in the biblical narrative: he exists to point the way to the coming of Christ and to call his people to repent of their sins.
Moreover, like Our Lady and St Joseph, John represents the People of Israel – indeed his father Zechariah, rendered dumb for some months because of his lack of faith, is a priest in the Temple in Jerusalem. John is a ‘bridge figure’, spanning the Old and New Testaments as he is seen as successor of the prophet Elijah, about whom we heard at weekday Mass last week. We are again reminded in this feast day of the Jewish roots of Christianity and of the need to be vigilant against anti-Semitism in all its forms.
Pointing to Christ and calling for repentance: John’s message is what the Church needs to do now. Yesterday we announced, giving statements from the Cardinal and the Bishops Conference, that the Johnson government is allowing public worship to recommence on 4 July. As restrictions will apply, in order to keep you safe in God’s house, a lot of planning and preparation has begun and details will be made available on this [Facebook] page and www.saintedmunds.net. A big part of what this needs to be about is shown for us in the ministry of the jarring, awkward, uncomfortable man whom the Church honours today: pointing to Christ, now that public Masses can resume, and calling people to turn away from their sins, Please pray for the bishops, their advisers, your clergy team here and those responsible here for public worship as we get ready for 4 July.
God bless and take care