The Universal Church venerates John the Baptist with two feast days, his birth on the 24th of June, and his beheading on August 29th. Announcing the advent of the Messianic time, he was the last prophet of the Old Testament. He was the first to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah. He was the first to offer his life in the new time. He was the first martyr of the New Testament.
John is special to us because he’s the patron of our parochial community. Each morning and evening, when the priests and brothers gather in the church for the recitation of the Divine Office, we invoke our patrons: Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament, St. Peter Julian Eymard, founder of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, St. Marguerite Bourgeoys, foundress of the Congregation of Notre Dame of Montreal, St. Anne, whose shrine has been in this church since 1884, and St. John the Baptist.
This Church of St. Jean Baptiste was established in 1882 to serve as the national Church for the French Canadian community of New York City. Because John the Baptist is the patron saint of Canada, it was appropriate to put this Church under his patronage.
The central interior door of the church displays a stained glass window depicting the moment in the Gospel of John when John the Baptist sees Jesus for the first time. He points to him and announces to his disciples: “Behold, the Lamb of God.” He immediately sees him as the redeemer, the Lamb whose sacrifice would take away the sins of the world.
The pastor responsible for the construction of this church building, Rev. Arthur Letellier, SSS, carried John’s proclamation to the top of the high altar. The monstrance, shaped like a burning sun, holds the consecrated host. The design is traditional. It presents the Eucharistic Jesus, as the center of the universe, the lifegiving sun. Fr. Letellier added an interesting component to the traditional design. The sun rests on a golden representation of John the Baptist. His right arm is extended over his head, and his index finger is pointing up to the host. At his feet lays the lamb that will take away the sins of the world. John is telling us that Jesus is the Eucharist the Lamb of God.
John the Baptist was a “voice crying in the wilderness.” Father Letellier realized that his voice was meant to sound not only during the days that Jesus walked the earth, but every day. John calls people of faith come to St. Jean’s to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. When we kneel before Jesus’ abiding among us, we take up John’s cry. By consecrating the central door of this edifice to John the Baptist, Father Letellier was inviting everyone who enters to follow in the footsteps of John the Baptist, to point to the Lamb of God, to witness to his presence among us. We’re invited to come to him for comfort, for healing, for guidance. We’re invited to offer adoration and thanksgiving to the Eucharistic Jesus who reaches out in love to all who gaze on him in faith.
For 118 years the fathers and brothers of the Blessed Sacrament have served in this temple dedicated to the Eucharist. We’ve gathered the faithful around the Eucharistic table. We’ve knelt in adoration before him. Like John the Baptist, we’ve called the attention of everyone to recognize the Lamb of God in our midst.
The feast of the birth of John the Baptist is an opportunity to invite you to share our mission. You can do so as a vowed religious, as a lay associate, or, as a person of faith, who, through your prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, gives powerful witness to the presence of the Eucharistic Jesus. Think about it. Open your heart to the Spirit. Our vocation is a beautiful one. It rests in the heart of the Church. We joyfully point to the Lamb of God among us.
Jesus, my Lord and my God, how can I thank you enough for remaining with me day after day? How can I thank you enough for the gift of yourself in the Eucharist? I offer you my heart, my all. I lift my hand. I point to you.