John’s birth comes at the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. From here on in the daylight hours decrease. Jesus was born near the winter solstice, when daylight hours start to increase. As John said, “He must increase, I must decrease.”
John is the hinge between the Old and New Testaments. John was born of older parents, Jesus of a young virgin.
Zechariah’s inability to speak represents the centuries-long silence in Israel since the last prophet had spoken. After he acknowledges the handiwork of God, Zechariah is able to speak, just as Jesus healed many who were mute.
The Old Testament could not bring us salvation; in many ways it doesn’t speak to our lives. John opens the door to the fullness of divine revelation and the possibility of salvation through Jesus. John was the spokesman for God; like the biblical prophets before him he preached repentance and conversion. At the Jordan, John pointed out the new spokesman for God.
Before John life was as barren as the womb of Elizabeth. Sin and death reigned and the kingdom of heaven was no longer available. After John, the fruitful womb of Mary gave birth to the God/man who would conquer both sin and death and make it possible for us to achieve the Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven.
Death and emptiness on one side of the door; life, hope and love on the other. And John the Baptist is the hinge that allows that door to open. That is why we celebrate each year the feast day of John the Baptist – to let us remember the miraculous work of God and the man who opened the door for us to see. When John called Jesus the Lamb of God, when John pointed out Jesus’ greatness: “I am not worthy to untie the thong of the sandals on his feet,” he opened the door for the world to recognize its Savior.
Happy first days of Summer!
Fr. Herb, C.S.C.