Ever since Martyrs’ Shrine was built to honor the eight Jesuit martyrs’ who gave their lives for the people of New France, thousands upon thousands of visitors, pilgrims and tourists have been awed by the serenity and therapeutic atmosphere in this place that has some sort of a healing power over them. Even though they may have travelled long distances, the pilgrims seem to be attracted to this place due to a deeper spiritual experience they go through on their visit here.
Today we celebrate the solemnity of the feast of the birthday of John the Baptist which relates to the birthday of Jesus.
The Church selected the time of the winter solstice to celebrate the birth of Jesus because from that time the days gradually grow longer; the amount of daylight increases.
The Church selected the time of the summer solstice to celebrate the birth of the Baptist because from this time the days gradually grow shorter; the amount of daylight diminishes. This symbolizes the words of the Baptist in speaking of Jesus, “He must increase while I must decrease” (Jn.3/30)
The name “John” in Hebrew is “Yehohanan.” It means “The Lord is gracious” or maybe better, “The Lord shows favor.” After the child was given this name, Zechariah offered a beautiful prayer of thanks and praise to God which is included in the Church’s Morning Prayer (Lk1/68-79). Within this prayer Zechariah turned to his little son and said, “You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare His way, to give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins.”
John the Baptist had the privilege as the herald of Jesus to point him as God’s gift to us, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Jesus in His person reveals to us the gracious favor of God the Father and fulfills the meaning of the name “John.”
The names of John’s parents are not without significance. “Elizabeth” means “God has sworn” or “God has promised by oath,” and recalls the solemn promise God made to send the Messiah. “Zechariah” means “God remembers,” and indicates the faithfulness of God in keeping His promise.
During the celebration of the Holy Eucharist today, we specially offer all our prayers and petitions at the altar asking to be healed and blessed through the intercession of the Holy Martyrs. In their lives they also celebrated this feast regularly in their mission of evangelization here in Huronia; which at that time located in a remote part of the world.
We today also give thanks and praise to God for the gracious favors He shows us through the miraculous healings through their intercession in this holy place.