On this June 24th, we interrupt Ordinary Time to celebrate the Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist. It is always celebrated on this date because it is 6 months before Dec 25th. Luke tells us that Elizabeth was already 6 months pregnant when the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary and Jesus was conceived. Today, open your mind and heart and let's reflect on what the significance of the birth of John the Baptist teaches you and I, in our lives. For we too can be part of God's amazing plan of salvation.
If you remember from Scripture, Luke testifies that the Angel Gabriel tells Zechariah, a righteous man and priest in the temple, that even though Elizabeth, his wife, is barren and they are both up there in years, they will give birth to a son, whom they are to name 'John'. The angel Gabriel foretells, "Many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. He must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah".
Imagine for a moment that you are Zechariah or Elizabeth, and you are going to give birth to a son, and many will rejoice at his birth and he will be great before the Lord, and even filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb. How amazing would that be for Elizabeth, from your womb he will be filled with the Holy Spirit? Likewise, to Zechariah, the angel declares that your child "will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God". Think about how excited Zechariah must have been, keep in mind that he was a priest in the temple, he offered sacrifices to the Lord in order to reconcile the people with God and have their sins forgiven. How honored Zechariah felt when he heard that his son will also lead the people of Israel closer to the Lord God by the 'forgiveness of sins'; but even on a greater scale, because he will do so in the spirit and power of Elijah, the greatest prophet. In other words, Zechariah heard that his son will be about the same purpose as him in life, but will have even greater impact and his significance will be the same as the greatest prophet. How proud and yet humbled Zechariah and Elizabeth must have felt.
However, at the very same time, they must have been disheartened also. For the Angel declares that their son will not have the family name, as was the custom, and they don't even have the opportunity to pick out his name. And even though they will give birth to him, he will be filled with the Holy Spirit in the womb of Elizabeth, and is to be consecrated to the Lord from the beginning, as the 'not drinking strong drink implies'. In addition, the last verse of the Gospel even alludes to the possible tradition that even though John was born to Zechariah and Elizabeth, they did not raise him. "The child grew and became strong in spirit and he was in the wilderness until the day of his manifestation in Israel." Tradition has it that John was raised by the Essenes, a community of celibate Jewish men who lived in the desert, near the Jordan river, where boys would be raised and trained in the scriptures. Therefore, can you imagine the pride and disheartened that Zechariah and Elizabeth must have felt, their son will grow to have the same beliefs as his parents, and will even be about the same purpose- uniting the people of Israel to God. But their son will not be a priest in the temple like his father, or have the family name, but will be more like the prophet Elijah, living out in the wilderness, away from the comforts of home and family.
How would you feel if you were Zechariah or Elizabeth? My parents can relate a little bit to them. For they also love God with all their heart and are about the Lord's purposes, and they are proud that I too am striving to love God with all my heart, and helping others to do the same. Sadly though, not all parents are like that. Not all parents love God with all their heart or want their son or daughter to forego the natural image of happiness of having a family and being successful, in order to be set apart and be about the Lord's work. You who are parents, what about you? Do your kids know that the most important thing for you is your relationship with God? Do they know that you want nothing else than you and them to love God with all your hearts and you want nothing more but for them to do God's will for their life? Again, parents, if your kids would say that what is most important to you is for them to get good grades, to be good people with a strong head on their shoulders, and to be happy and successful; then your priorities are not in order. If you honestly answered 'no' to the above question, either God's will is not most important to you, or that you are not revealing to them that it is.
You, kids, teenagers, and young adults, think about John the Baptist. In the womb, John leapt and was filled with the Holy Spirit, and gave himself to be guided by the Spirit. John gave himself to doing the Lord's work of preparing the world for His coming; this humble and simple boy became a humble and simple man, but whose purpose and life had the one of the greatest influences on the world. Of whom Scripture says, "no one born of woman has been greater than John the Baptist." You who are baptized, you too have been given the Spirit and are to be guided by Him. And like John, God has a great plan for you. Tell me, children and teenagers, do you want to be happy successful in the ways of the world, or do you want to leave your mark on the world? Do you want to be a person of great influence on the world? If so, there is nothing better than giving yourself over to God and doing His will for your life, then and only there will you be truly happy and fulfilled.
My brothers and sisters, I hope you are not thinking that God's plan and purpose only has to do with if you should be a priest or religious, for some of you kids it might just be; but your vocation in life is to serve God how He wants you to serve him. If you are married, then the vocation God has given you is to prepare your family for Heaven by witnessing and teaching them to love God with all their heart, and help them to seek and do God's will for their lives. If you work, whatever profession you have, whatever skills you do, no matter how big or small they might be, you are to see that as doing the Lord's work. You are to see that your job is where the Lord has put you, what he wants you to do to be a person of influence, and to recognize his presence every day leading, guiding, and strengthening you. If you work with or for people, you are to be an image of God and serve God's people as best as you can each day. Therefore, I ask those who work, do you see your job as your work, or where the Lord has you to do His work to His people?
Even though our 1st reading is a prophecy about Israel, the chosen people, it can also be spoken of about John, you and I. "The Lord called me from birth, from my mother's womb he gave me my name… Though I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, yet my reward is with the Lord. For the Lord has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb…and I am glorious in the sight of the Lord, and my God is now my strength…so that the Lord's salvation may reach to the ends of the earth". Reflect for a moment my brothers and sisters, why do you exist? Who made you? Yes, you and I have parents, but can't you and I say, as our psalm testifies, "Truly the Lord has formed my inmost being; and knit me together in my mother's womb. I give thanks that I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are your works". Truly our Lord has made us, he is the ultimate reason we exist, because He wanted to make us. Therefore, we are made by the Lord, and for the Lord. We exist not for our own glory, but for His. We are made to be His servant. Do you see that your life, what you do day in and day out, is meant to be in service of the Lord? If our lives are not for the Lord's purposes, then our toiling is in vain, and we spend our strength for nothing, for no useless purpose. Indeed, you and I exist to know that God made us to know and love Him, and to help others to do the same, so that God's salvation He is offering to every person may reach to the ends of the earth. So, this week, reflect on your life and for whose purpose you are living. And join me in thanking John the Baptist for his life and example, and ask that he will intercede for us, so that you and I can seek and do God's will for our lives also, and through and with God be a person of great influence for the true life and light of the world to come.BACK TO LIST