SOLEMNITY OF THE NATIVITY OF JOHN THE BAPTIST
Is 49:1-6; Ps 139:1-3,13-15; Acts 13:22-26; Lk 1:57-66,80
FINDING OUR CHRISTIAN VOICE
Today’s Gospel passage presents the moment when Zechariah finds his voice – at the birth of his son, John. But why did his voice fail in the first place? Zechariah’s voice failed because of his lack of faith. St Augustine tells us: “Zechariah is silent and loses his voice until John, the precursor of the Lord, is born and restores his voice….” He adds, “The tongue is loosened because a voice is born.” It was the voice crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord!”
Today we celebrate the solemnity of the birth of John the Baptist, a voice of the Lord; and what a voice he turned out to be! John had an important role in the history of salvation, as the forerunner of the Messiah. He was called to prepare the people of Israel to receive their long-awaited and promised Messiah, by preaching repentance. He was a great teacher and prophet. He dared to challenge people and teach them how to find the one who could bring them salvation. John is the last of the prophets, and the only prophet who saw the ‘one who had been prophesied.’ In the Scripture, John is mentioned as the one who “prepares the way of the Lord,” (cf. Mal 3:1, Mk 1:1-5, Lk 3:4, 7:27). Isaiah prophesies the coming of John saying, “A voice proclaims, ‘Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! (40:3)” John was the man foretold in the prophecy (Mt 3:3, 11:30).
In the first reading, Isaiah wrote the verses, known as the “Servant Songs”, during the final days of the Babylonian exile. The Church applies these words to John the Baptist to describe his purpose. The second reading, from the Acts of the Apostles is part of a speech given by Paul in a synagogue. In this passage, John, in all his humility, acknowledged that his role is to be a herald for the Messiah.
The births of Jesus and John were miraculous. Jesus was born of a virgin whereas John was born of aged parents. Both births were announced by the angel Gabriel. The mission of Jesus was to be the promised Messiah while that of John was to be his forerunner. John and Jesus were inseparable in their identity and mission; this is not only seen at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry but also before his birth, when Mary, who carried Jesus, met Elizabeth pregnant with John, who leapt for joy in the womb of his mother.
We are all called, as Christians, to be the voice of Christ. We are all asked, as Christians, to live, share and proclaim the good news with courage and faith. We are all expected, as Christians, to live a prophetical life, inspired and challenged by John, the prophet and messenger of God. The role of John remains crucial for all of us. We live in a society that denies sin but demands forgiveness. John shows us that forgiveness is possible only when we recognize that there is something we need to forgive and be forgiven for. He offered people baptism as a sign of their decision to repent and start a new life in preparation for the coming of the Messiah. In calling people to repent, John sought not only to inform them, but to transform them as well. He urged people to abandon their selfish ways and accept the new way of thinking, a new heart, a new mind, a new way to walk that leads us to the Lord.
We find our Christian voice, when our hearts are purified through prayer and repentance, and are coordinated with the plan and purpose of God. Today’s feast invites us to be the voice of God and, inspired by the ministry and message of repentance and selflessness that John preached and lived, reflect in our own lives his humility before the Lord; “He must increase; I must decrease.” (Jn 3:30).
Response: I thank you who wonderfully made me.
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