23rd December

Today’s gospel is the birth of John the Baptist, Luke 1:57-66.

Meanwhile the time came for Elizabeth to have her child, and she gave birth to a son; and when her neighbours and relations heard that the Lord had shown her so great a kindness, they shared her joy.

Now on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; they were going to call him Zechariahmotherhood1 after his father, but his mother spoke up. ‘No,’ she said ‘he is to be called John.’ They said to her, ‘But no one in your family has that name’, and made signs to his father to find out what he wanted him called. The father asked for a writing-tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John’. And they were all astonished. At that instant his power of speech returned and he spoke and praised God. All their neighbours were filled with awe and the whole affair was talked about throughout the hill country of Judaea. All those who heard of it treasured it in their hearts. ‘What will this child turn out to be?’ they wondered. And indeed the hand of the Lord was with him.

In birth as in ministry John the Baptist was a forerunner — he was born, as it were, to prepare the way for the Lord. How astute were the peasants of the hill country of Judea, who, stunned by the miracle of the restoration of Zechariah’s ability to speak, asked concerning John’s birth, `What then will this child be?’ (v. 66). We know what they did not know, that many years later God would raise him up as the last of the Old Testament prophets. In the spirit of Elijah, Isaiah and Jeremiah, his mission was to hold out the message of conversion and repentance in order that times of refreshing and renewal would come.

We live in a radically different culture from our forefathers in faith — an age of flight, space travel, modern technology, the Internet, the worldwide web and so on. We have mobile phones and Skype and Twitter and Facebook. However, despite progress, despite all our advancements and enhancements, one thing has not changed, and that is the human condition and our need for repentance and the .call to conversion. As we move ever closer to celebrating the birth of the Saviour, let us invite the Spirit to give us a life-changing understanding of the message of the

Baptist. Let us prepare to welcome our humble Saviour by embracing the way of humility, which is always the way of repentance and contrition.

As the ancient manuscript Shepherd of Hermas taught, ‘Repentance is deep understanding.’ We understand that we need a Saviour. We understand that we are fallen and wounded and that we cant save ourselves. We understand that by taking responsibility for our sin and confessing, ‘I repent’ and ‘I turn away from my sin’, we enter through the gateway to life and freedom from sin. We understand that sin has to be brought into the light and acknowledged [similar to the benefit of acknowledging our broken lives/pasts in counselling, Twelve Step programmes, etc].

Prepare the way for the Lord in your life. Take courage and go to the sacrament of reconciliation. Pour out your heart to the Lord who in turn pours out his love, mercy and forgiveness upon us in this sacrament of healing, of grace and of every blessing.

Lord, in the spirit of St John the Baptist we prepare to receive the Lord by seeking the grace and blessing made so abundantly available to us in the sacrament of reconciliation. (Bible Alive)