When the time came for Elizabeth, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the merciful Lord had done a wonderful thing for her and they rejoiced with her. When on the eighth day they came to attend the circumcision of the child, they wanted to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, «Not so; he shall be called John». They said to her, «No one in your family has that name»; and they asked the father by means of signs for the name he wanted to give. Zechariah asked for a writing tablet and wrote on it, «His name is John», and they were very surprised.
Immediately Zechariah could speak again and his first words were in praise of God. A holy fear came on all in the neighborhood, and throughout the Hills of Judea the people talked about these events. All who heard of it pondered in their minds and wondered, «What will this child be?». For they understood that the hand of the Lord was with him. As the child grew up, he was seen to be strong in the Spirit; he lived in the desert till the day when he appeared openly in Israel.
I would invite you all to meditate on these three points.
The Joy and the glory of God
The presence of John de Baptist has given immense joy to the family, to the community and to the whole world, the greatest among men, born of women, as witnessed by Christ. As we celebrate this solemnity, we have to ask ourselves, does our presence give joy to the world and by our presence do we make people to give glory to God? The gospel doesn’t fail to remind us that in everything the glory of God should be the reason of our thinking and the force of our doing.
The surprise and the wonder of the Lord
We all have certain rules and regulations, guided by traditions and culture. God is not limited to these elements of life. To understand the divine functioning, we are called to look beyond these human elements, and search for the divine will. This divine will is not a single act, but a permanent and continuous act, which pushes to renew this search eternally. God has a say in everything, and it’s not the same to all and to all time. The parents of John were open to this newness and allowed God to act in their own decisions. Thus, before the people they became the living witness of God’s presence and His marvelous deeds.
Strong in the Spirit and lived in the desert
There is a paradox of life and a strong bond between living in Spirit and a desert life. It is through events and people that God reveals His presence in the world. However, it in the silence and in the dept of our heart that God speaks to us. The Spirit forces to enter into a desert life, deep into our own interiority, a solid life with ‘God alone’ mentality. This Spirit gives us the thirst for water and forces us to depend on God’s providence. This desert life allows us to live strangely, a moment of external and apparent emptiness, and helps us to understand the from the crude reality, the hidden truth and to discover the invisible richness of divine presence in our life. It is important to note that it was the Spirit which led Jesus into the desert. Let’s not be afraid of our own desert life, and should enter here, willingly and joyfully.
Action of the day: be joyful in every moment of life.
«As the child grew up, he was seen to be strong in the Spirit»
Fr. Joan MARTÍNEZ Porcel
Today, we solemnly celebrate the Nativity of the Baptist. St. John is a man of contrasts: he lives in the silence of the desert, but right from there he appeals to the crowds with convincing voice inviting them to convert; he is humble enough to say he is only the voice, not the Word, but he does not mince his words and dares to accuse and denounce all injustices even to the very king; he urges his disciples to meet with Jesus, but he does not mind rebuking king Herod while he is in prison. Silent and humble, he is also strong and courageous enough to shed his blood. John the Baptist is a great man!, the greatest of them all, as Jesus himself will say in praise, but he is only Christ's precursor.
Perhaps, the secret of his greatness is the realization of knowing he has been chosen by God; this is how the evangelist explains it: «And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel» (Lk 1:80). All his childhood and youth was marked by the understanding of his mission: to provide testimony; which he does by baptizing Christ in the river Jordan, by favorably disposing the crowds for the Lord and, at the end of his life, by shedding his blood in favour of the truth. With our knowledge about John, we could answer the question his contemporary was wondering about: «What will this child be?» (Lk 1:66).
Through the baptism, we have been all chosen and sent to bear witness of the Lord. In an environment of indifference, St. John is a helping example to imitate; St. Augustine says: «Admire John as much as you can for, whom you admire is profitable to Christ. I insist, he is profitable to Christ, not because you offer anything to Him, but because of your being able to progress in Him». In John, his attitude as a Messenger, clearly explicit in attentive prayer to the Spirit, in his fortitude and humility, helps us to establish new horizons of sanctity for us and for our brother.
Daily Quote from the early church fathers:
Parallels between John and Jesus,
by Ephrem the Syrian (306-373 AD)
"The elderly Elizabeth gave birth to the last of the prophets, and Mary, a young girl, to the Lord of the angels. The daughter of Aaron gave birth to the voice in the desert (Isaiah 63:9), but the daughter of David to the strong God of the earth. The barren one gave birth to him who remits sins, but the Virgin gave birth to him who takes them away (John 1:29). Elizabeth gave birth to him who reconciled people through repentance, but Mary gave birth to him who purified the lands of uncleanness. The elder one lit a lamp in the house of Jacob, his father, for this lamp itself was John (John 5:35), while the younger one lit the Sun of Justice (Malachi 4:2) for all the nations. The angel announced to Zechariah, so that the slain one would proclaim the crucified one and that the hated one would proclaim the envied one. He who was to baptize with water would proclaim him who would baptize with fire and with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11). The light, which was not obscure, would proclaim the Sun of Justice. The one filled with the Spirit would proclaim concerning him who gives the Spirit. The priest calling with the trumpet would proclaim concerning the one who is to come at the sound of the trumpet at the end. The voice would proclaim concerning the Word, and the one who saw the dove would proclaim concerning him upon whom the dove rested, like the lightning before the thunder." (excerpt from COMMENTARY ON TATIAN’S DIATESSARON 1.31)