+JOHN IS HIS NAME Birth of John the Baptist, 2018
There is something hidden and mysterious about the figure of John the Baptist, for our own day as it was in his. Born of a priest Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth, he was conceived long after she would have been able to bear a son. All the people, St Luke tells us, who witnessed his birth were filled with wonder, saying : “’what, then, will this child be?’ for surely the hand of the Lord is with him.”
Our first reading from the prophet Isaiah, speaks of one called from birth, from his mother’s womb [the Lord] gave him his name. Isaiah goes on to say: “you are my servant.. Israel, through whom I show my glory.” Here we are given to see this hidden figure as representative of the chosen people, called to be “a light to the nations, so that God’s salvation may reach the ends of the earth.”
Might this be what today’s Solemnity is offering each and all of us, giving us a living awareness of how we too are God’s chosen ones, destined to be a light to those around us, living members of Christ’s Body who carry his healing presence, the coming of God’s reign into our world today. The Sacrament we celebrate here at this altar is what each of our lives is to become as we let the sacredness of our own calling permeate the whole of our lives.
Often we never know or suspect what our loving actions bring about in those around us but as often as we make present the loving hand of God wherever we may be or whatever we may be doing—God’s loving presence is manifest and will transform the lives of others.
Each one of us has been called by name whether at birth, at our Baptism or when we entered religious life. We, like John the Baptist are polished arrows in God’s quiver. When the angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah the priest in the temple, announcing that his wife would bear him a son, this son was to be called John, which means the Lord is gracious; the Lord has compassion. Each of our names reveals something of God’s design and mission for our lives.
Realizing our dignity as God’s chosen ones, we are made ready to undertake whatever is asked of us, confident it has precious value even when we are overwhelmed by doubt or fear. Isaiah tells of this, saying: “though I thought I had toiled in vain and for nothing, uselessly spent my strength, yet my reward is with the Lord, my recompense is with my God.” The prophet’s words remind us of that point in John’s life when he was imprisoned and sent his disciples to Jesus asking: “Are you the one to come, or should we look for another?” John, like us all, had his moments when he wondered where this Jesus was leading him.
What became clear to John as Jesus began to proclaim that the Kingdom of God was at hand, drawing many disciples after him, was that he must decrease while the Bridegroom of the Bride, Jesus, must increase. So it is in each of our lives as we allow the Spirit of Jesus take possession of all we do, the false self, the ego, is set aside so that Christ’s life may become more and more manifest in all that we do.
Is this not what the Eucharist is bringing about as we celebrate it! Jesus, through the priest, takes bread and says: this is my Body given up for you, and then the wine, this is the chalice of my Blood which will be poured out for you. As our lives surrender to the work of the Holy Spirit, they become life-giving bread for all around us, they become a precious cup poured out for the life of the world. May John the Baptist help us in our world today to be true to the gift and name we have received so that we may come to that fullness of life he now enjoys.
Isaiah 49:1-6; Acts 13:22-26; Luke 1:57-66,80