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4 Life Lessons from St. John the Baptist - Courage & Discipleship for Today Latest

4 Life Lessons from St. John the Baptist - Courage & Discipleship for Today

Jun 25, 2024 by

From the moment he leapt in his mother Elizabeth's womb to the moment of his martyrdom, St. John the Baptist gave himself entirely to communicating the message and love of Christ. This mysterious saint, the Forerunner of Jesus, was renowned in his own right, but he never sought that identity. His only aim was to prepare the way of the Lord. 

A powerful model of courage and discipleship, John shows us how to embrace our Catholic identity and live our faith. Here are 4 life lessons from the Baptizer:

1. Embrace your true calling.

God charged John to be the Herald of the Messiah. His role was to bring souls to repentance and prepare His Chosen People for the coming of Christ. While Our Lady's role was supreme as the Mother of God and St. Joseph's was paramount as the Protector of the Holy Family, John had to take it to the streets. 

He personified "walking the talk." There must have been many times when his calling was challenging, perplexing, exhausting, and frightening, even with the spiritual insights and graces provided by the Lord. 


Regardless of whether he understood every detail in the moment, John persevered to the end. His life testifies to an important fact we lose sight of in the chaos of everyday life:

Each of us is charged with a unique role only we can fulfill for the Kingdom. 

We may not baptize thousands in the Jordan River, suffer imprisonment, or become a martyr. We may not even see our role as "significant" - or see it at all. But it is ours alone, created for us by God the Father.

Some roles may seem more visible or consequential than others, but we perceive a mere sliver of a story that spans the entirety of time. The big picture is known only to the Eternal God. Our perspective is limited, just like our humanity, so every one of our callings is important. 


An important part of the Catholic spiritual life is seeking to understand what God asks of us, wherever He has placed us, and then pursuing that unique calling for His glory. By His design, we will find our greatest supernatural joy there, despite the trials and challenges.

We are all called to pursue God's unique mission for our lives with focus, determination, and purpose—with our whole hearts, like St. John the Baptist.

2. Put God first. 

The Precursor's relationship with God, his obedience, sacrificial love, trust, and docility may seem radical to us in our day, but his longing to do God's will and be united to Him is our longing too. The life of John the Baptist symbolizes the collective longing we all share to be united with our God.


John knew that his life's work was to exalt Jesus as the Son of God, not to exalt himself. He offered his life and death as a sacrifice for the accomplishment of the Father's will through Christ. 

God is pursuing each of us for our entire lifetime. He calls us to accept His unique and wonderful role for us and to orient our lives towards Him.

The Lord gave the Baptizer all he needed to participate in God's plan for our salvation. John responded to His grace and conformed himself to God's will, so he could be more fully united with the Father. 


By living a prayerful and sacramental life, fully embracing our Faith, and allowing it to guide our thoughts, words, and actions, we are more likely to hear God calling. Then we can respond in ways that help us unite our souls to Him.

When we put Him first, everything else will follow, rightly ordered, because it will flow organically from His love and grace.

3. Don't be afraid to live contrary to the culture.

John lived a solitary life in the desert wilderness, separated from his loved ones and the world. His sustenance was locusts and wild honey. His clothing, uncomfortable camel's hair. 

He taught his disciples as a strong yet humble leader, pointing his followers to Christ, not himself. He refused to accept anything contrary to the Law. He lived in complete and radical obedience to God, despite the norms and depravities of his time.


Many considered him a lunatic. He wasn't seeking acceptance, and had no desire to fit in. Detached completely from the social expectations of others, he pursued repentance, holiness, and the Messiah. 

His rigorous life of prayer, fasting, and obedience fortified and strengthened him for his mission and protected him so he could accomplish it. 


It takes more than simply saying we love God to live as a follower of Christ today. Living faithfully in today's culture while we are mocked and persecuted for our beliefs takes strong conviction, grace, and fortitude.

We fuel all of that with prayer, God's Word, and the sacraments. By surrounding ourselves with like-minded and like-souled people, we fortify ourselves for the battle.


Make no mistake, it's just as much a battle today as it was in John's time. We must live our life with clear direction, stay true to our convictions, and let nothing separate us from God.

Our souls are the dwelling places of the Trinity. We should strive to prepare our dwelling places accordingly. That means caring deeply about avoiding anything, even "little things," that could separate us from Him. 

Living counter to the culture is often a requirement of living a life of faith, but do not fear. He has promised to help us, accompany us, and prepare a place for us in heaven, our true home.

4. Defend the truth & pray for conversion.

The Baptizer allowed the Holy Spirit to direct all he did and said. The Holy Spirit, in turn, gave him the courage, perseverance, and conviction required to prepare the way of the Lord. 

When we are filled with the love of God and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we cannot help but pursue Him and conform ourselves to His will. Then the fruits spill into our own lives and overflow into the lives of others. We become zealous for the truth and desire to share it with others. We become courageous in defending it.

It's hard to speak the truth in certain circumstances. It may feel repugnant because it's so likely to cause conflict. Sometimes we are called to speak literally, standing up for what we believe. Sometimes our lives must speak it for us as we pray and sacrifice to move hearts. 

Mark 6:20 tells us that Herod both feared John the Baptist and liked to listen to him - was captivated by him - so he "kept him in custody and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man." 

There is something inexplicably compelling about the truth, isn't there?

Truth may be uncomfortable, but that does not change it. We must not be afraid to defend what we believe, in charity and with prudence. 


Preparing the Way of the Lord

It was not Herod but his wife Herodius who sought to have the Baptizer killed for his message that their union was unlawful. Though Herod was too proud to refuse John's beheading, Mark 6:26 reveals the request "greatly distressed" him. 

John's death was a grave injustice, but he fulfilled his life's purpose and God-given calling. Jesus said of him, 

Truly I say to you, among those born of women, there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.                                                                                                                                    (Matthew 11:11)

After speaking the truth, John was unjustly martyred - at the whim of an easily-influenced princess, for the entertainment of Roman guests, during a feast where the ruler refused to follow true justice.

His death prefigures the execution of Christ - at the whim of an easily-influenced mob, at the hands of Roman executioners, on the occasion of a feast where the ruler refused to follow true justice.


The Baptizer prepared the way of the Lord to the very end. 

We each have our own part to play in preparing the way of the Lord. May the passion that compelled St. John the Baptist call us to examine our lives and fully embrace our Catholic identities as we learn from his devotion and example.