Sunday 24 June 2018
Ps 138: 2-3, 13-15
Luke: 1:57-66, 80
There are several interesting parallels or contrasts between the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus.
Both were born following the visitation of an angel (to Zechariah and to Mary);
both mothers conceived in miraculous ways (Elizabeth was barren and getting on in years, Mary was a virgin);
Zechariah was struck dumb for doubting, Mary proclaimed the greatness of the Lord for his wonderful action;
John was born at the time of the summer solstice, Jesus at that of the winter one.
Other than the Virgin Mary, the only other birthdays celebrated by the Church are those of John and Jesus.
Both would die at the hands of those who refused to listen to their message.
John came to announce, prepare the way for Jesus. Jesus himself speaks of John as bearing witness to the teachings of the Old Testament but also pointing us towards the new teaching – that of Jesus. John speaks for a particular moment; Jesus’s Word is forever.
The names of Elizabeth and Zechariah also have significance for us: Elizabeth means ‘My God has promised’ and Zechariah means ‘God has remembered’.
With the birth of John, God has remembered the promise that he made in his covenant with Abraham, despite the many many times the Chosen People broke it. So too God does for us, no matter how often we turn away.
Today’s celebration is a call to us to remember our own baptismal commitment, to be a light in the darkness. As John called the people to repentance, so too we must repent of all those things which rob us of the peace which the Lamb of God brings (as we remind ourselves at every Mass: Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, grant us peace).
Like John we are called to live sober lives – not necessarily going into the wilderness and eating locusts and honey but to be moderate in our use of the world’s resources. John was possibly the first environmentalist! Today, we realise how our use – or overuse – of the world’s resources has an effect on peoples thousands of miles away.
Just as John pointed the way to Jesus, so too I am called – by how I live my daily life – to point to the power of Jesus at work in my life. Does it? Will you?
– Fr. Martin Kavanagh SMA