Birth of St John the Baptist, 24 June 2012
[The full readings for the Feast – vigil and mass of the feast day – are available on our website here]
Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.
On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him. The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.
(Luke 1:57–66, 80 NRSV)
We wonder how our children will turn out. We have hopes for them – for friendship, love, a good life, prosperity, a goal in life and many more. We have fears and anxieties about how they will get on in life. The people said of John the Baptist, ‘what will this child be?’ While his parents, old as they were, knew there was something really special about him in God’s plan, they also had the usual parental fears. They put their child into the protection and hands of God, as we do at each baptismal ceremony.
John would have a chequered career. Nobody would have know then that he would eventually be martyred. Nor that he would live in the community of believers in the desert. Nor that he would announce the coming of Jesus.
The gospel today is an encouragement to put our loved ones in the care and the love of God. The love of God brings each of us into the world, and can keep us safe and joyful for life.
Announce God’s love
The vocation of each child, each person of any age and at all times, is something like John’s – to announce the love of God in word and deed among people. This for most of us is in the ordinary everyday life of relationships, work, leisure, pain and joy.
So we can wonder about our children and see in them what John’s parents saw in him as they marked his birth – the love of God made visible in a child and in all of us all our days, and the call to bring love into the world as best we can.
We can say of every child with joy and confidence, ‘praise to God’, echoing the prayer of John the Baptist’s father.
Donal Neary SJ