June 24 is the day for commemorating the Nativity of John the Baptist. Even though you may not plan to attend a formal religious service of some kind on Monday, this doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate St. John the Baptist’s birthday. The occasion invites us to get wet and to reflect on how we are called to make a splash in the world.
In some countries, it is popular to throw water on people on St. John’s Day, with the idea that the wetter you get, the more blessed you are. Whether we simply shower in the morning, take a swim in the afternoon, or are lucky enough to walk along a beach at sunset, this is a day to give thanks for water and to remember our baptism.
St. John did not invent baptism, of course. Scholars believe that first-century Jews practiced some form of baptism, especially with new converts. John baptized with this in mind, and more. He stressed an ethical component, as the Gospel of Luke says, “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Lk. 3:3). John also linked baptism with the coming of the kingdom of God. And so, with John the Baptist and with Christians in general after the Day of Pentecost, baptism meant not only a change from old to new. Baptism also carried with it (and carries still) the impetus to strive for justice and goodness with a sense that the world is not all it first appears—God’s kingdom is also breaking in upon us.
God’s kingdom has different values and perspectives, and so while we continue to live in this world, we lean into the next and are changed and improved by it. Like water that washes over a stone and makes it smooth, baptism washes over us throughout this life, smoothing over our rough edges and preparing us for life eternal.
This Monday, whenever you’re around water—whether you use it, frolic in it, walk by it, or drink it—remember your baptism. St. Paul employs water’s dangerous nature as he proclaims that in baptism we are “buried with Christ in a death like his.” In baptism, sin sinks and the devil drowns in a watery grave. But we rise with Christ. “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Rm. 6:5). Let’s get wet, give thanks for John the Baptist, and be glad that we have been baptized.