Jesus himself praised John the Baptist for his holiness so it’s not unusual that the church celebrates John’s birth and death in its liturgy. Luke’s gospel recalls John’s birth in detail,ending its account with the words:“The hand of the Lord was with him. The child grew and became strong in spirit,and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.”
Notice,though,that like Mary and Joseph,Elizabeth and Zechariah are recognized in Luke’s gospel for their role in the birth and raising of the child. However lonely and independent a figure John appears to be in the gospels,he didn’t come from nowhere. He was nourished and raised by parents and an extended family who left their mark on him. “The hand of the Lord was with him,” but human hands on him as well.
He had faith like his mother,Elizabeth,who recognized the Spirit’s presence in her pregnant cousin Mary visiting her from Nazareth. John would point out the Lamb of God among all those who came to the Jordan River for baptism.
He had faith like his father,Zechariah,who devoutly celebrated the mysteries of God in the temple of Jerusalem as a priest. At the Jordan River,John called pilgrims on their way to the Holy City to participate in the Jewish feasts by preparing the way of the Lord in their own hearts.
Undoubtedly,John was a unique figure,a messenger from God,a voice in the desert preparing the Lord’s way. But there were also faithful people behind him,as they are behind us.