Today is the solemnity of St John the Baptist, the prophet who bridges the Old and New Testaments. The Bishop’s commentary follows the gospel of the day.
GOSPEL: Luke 1:57-66. 80
His name is John.
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 Zechariah 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. Meanwhile the child grew up and his spirit matured. And he lived out in the wilderness until the day he appeared openly to Israel.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Gospel Reflection Saturday, The Nativity of John the Baptist Luke 1:57-66, 80
John the Baptist is the only saint, after Jesus himself, whose birth the church celebrates with a solemn feast. We celebrate the birth of John the Baptist on June 24th, six months before we celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25th. The celebration of the birth of Jesus at Christmas coincides more or less with the winter solstice. Just as the light of the sun begins to make a comeback after darkness has reached its peak, we celebrate the birth of the light of the world. The celebration of the birth of John the Baptist coincides, in contrast, with the summer solstice. Just as the light of the sun begins to decrease, after reaching its peak, we celebrate the birth of the one who said, Jesus ‘must increase, but I must decrease’. The question of the neighbours and relations ask of the child John in the gospel reading, ‘What will this child turn out to be?’ could be asked of any of us. It is a question that could be asked of us at any stage of our lives, ‘What will I turn out to be?’, or to put the question in other terms, ‘Who is God calling me to be’? ‘What is God’s purpose for my life?’ God’s purpose for John’s life and God’s purpose for all our lives have a great deal in common. God wants all of us to do what John did, to point out the Saviour, to make way for Jesus, to lead others to him by what we say and do. John the Baptist, whose birth we celebrate today, has something to teach us about how we might keep faithful to this God-given calling. He was a man of the desert, a man of prayer. We all need to find our own desert place of prayer if we are to remain true to our calling to lead others to the Lord, if we are to turn out as God wants us to.
The Gospel reflection comes from WEEKDAY REFLECTIONS: To know the love of Christ 2016/2017 by Martin Hogan published by The Messenger c/f www.messenger.ie