There are times in our lives when we feel like we are entering into a new era. When the expectation of new beginnings brings us joy with God’s presence in our lives. In many ways we are all collectively experiencing this joy right now as we return to being with each other, to travel and new adventures.
As we go through this time of expectation and experiencing the world in new ways, it’s the perfect time to remember the birth of St. John the Baptist. We can get only a faint taste of the feeling of joy and expectation that Mary and Elizabeth felt by receiving God’s gift, but a taste nonetheless.
Joy and Expectation: the Birth of St. John the Baptist
June 24th is when we celebrate the birth of St. John the Baptist (symbolically, it is six months before Christmas as he was born six months before Jesus). But even before he was born he was filled with joy at the coming of Christ. After Mary becomes pregnant she goes to visit her relative Elizabeth, who was six months along with John the Baptist. Even in the womb, John “leaped for joy” (Luke 1:44). Elizabeth, too, was “filled with the Holy Spirit” (1:41).
St. John the Baptist was chosen by God to lead the way for the coming of Christ. And when we read this story we get a sense of the extraordinary joy of what’s to come, and of God’s powerful work in their lives. In that way, St. John the Baptist has become a symbol of renewal, new beginnings, and how we celebrate those special times.
New Beginnings: Returning to Pilgrimage
Catholics all over are currently experiencing a unique time of renewed hope and seeking God in new ways. Travel is opening up, people are once again meeting in person with their friends, family, and spiritual communities. It is a time of joyfully anticipating how God will work in our lives in new ways, and how we can trust in his timing.
Pilgrimage is one of those ways in which we explore the sacred, and experience renewal as we actively seek out God’s presence. Being on a pilgrimage is often a life-changing moment. Many people feel more connected to God and his story in a way they haven’t before. In that way, it’s very much a way that God comes down to earth to meet us. And like John the Baptist, we can revel in expectation, and thank God for what he is about to do.
Honoring St. John the Baptist in the Holy Land
Speaking of pilgrimage and St. John the Baptist, if you visit the Holy Land you can celebrate both! Located in Ein Karem, the Church of St. John the Baptist is built on the site where it’s believed he was born. The beautiful church and monastery is built on centuries-old structures from the Roman, Byzantine, and Early Muslim periods. They even discovered ceramic dating back to the time when Zechariah, Elizabeth, and John lived. When you visit, after walking inside and viewing the altar and cupola you can walk downstairs to the cave of St. John the Baptist’s birth, giving thanks for such an important life and witness of God’s work in this world.
If you’re looking forward to going on a pilgrimage again, you don’t have to wait long. Discover the many places we’re traveling to soon and start planning! In the meantime, we can all celebrate the birth of St. John the Baptist, the one who reminds us of the joy of Christ to come.