John The Baptist- Luke 1:57-80

23 Jan

In my last article on the Gospel of Luke, I left off at Mary’s Magnificat. Mary, pregnant with Our Lord, humbly recognized the power of God and her role in God’s plan of salvation. Mary spent three months with her cousin Elizabeth, also pregnant by way of a miracle from God. Most thought Elizabeth was too old to conceive. Even Zechariah, Elizabeth’s husband, thought so. But God silenced Zechariah until the birth of his son John. Likewise, we are often silenced by awe at God’s might and pure goodness.

Luke’s story of the birth of John the Baptist ties in nicely with today’s Gospel reading at Mass. From the Gospel of Mark, we hear from Jesus:

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mark 1:15)

John the Baptist was born to eventually proclaim the same message, to prepare the way for Christ to fulfill His mission as one among his people. This is an important message. Firstly, the kingdom of God isn’t meant as some far-off entity. Rather, God intends that earth be part of His kingdom. It is up to humankind to allow this kingdom to come to earth. To do this, we are asked to make ourselves as nothing before God. The Lord is other-worldly to us, yet in the miracle of the Incarnation God sent Christ to dwell among us as a human being. We ask that God’s will be united with human will in the Lord’s Prayer:

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as in Heaven.

Christ is the ideal human being. He is humanity as God intends. He is the perfect image of God because He is one with God. And Jesus calls us, with His help always at hand, to deny ourselves before him so that we might more fully be Him to His people. To fulfill this mission, we need to seek God’s mercy. We need to repent. Repentance involves not only asking for forgiveness for our actions, but also for wrongful thoughts and for actions not taken when they ought to have been. At Mass, the words of the Penitential Rite are therefore important:

I confess to Almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault: In my thoughts, in my words, in what I have done, and in what I’ve failed to do.
I ask Blessed Mary ever Virgin, all the angels and saints, and you my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.

Repentance is necessary to make God’s kingdom apparent, and it involves not only a change in actions, but in the mindset behind how we act. If human beings are to be of one will with that of God, we must transcend ourselves in word, thought, and deed. Jesus told Pontius Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36) Thus, although His kingdom transcends this world, Christ came to us in human form. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, Christ’s disciples, in human form also, continue to bring Him to other people.

By coming to repentance, we accept the coming near of God’s kingdom, and the good news becomes impossible to contain. Out of awe comes silence, then a breaking of that silence. In Luke’s Gospel, Zechariah breaks his silence after naming his son:

“His name is John…Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God.” (Luke 1:64) Zechariah, along with those gathered at the presentation of John, had felt the mercy of God, and happily proclaimed it. The child was named John, meaning “merciful” in Hebrew. Indeed, all those present rejoiced with Elizabeth once they knew that “the Lord had shown his great mercy to her.” (Luke 1:57) In response, this joy was spread “throughout the entire hill country of Judea.” (Luke 1:65) Our joy over our redemption by God continues to be spread today, unhalted by earthly boundaries. We wonder what God will do next, like the people who saw the presentation of John wondered: “What then will this child become?” (Luke 1:66) Yet we trust that “the hand of the Lord” is with us, so that we may be strengthened in spirit, even if it appears to us as if we are in a wilderness of confusion before God’s plan (cf. Luke 1:66, 80)

God will strengthen us if we allow Him to do so. In the meantime, we praise God’s mighty name as Zechariah did after his mouth was opened:

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favourably on his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a mighty saviour for us
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.

(Luke 1:68-79)

Lord guide our feet along your pathways of mercy and peace. Help us to bring your kingdom that transcends this world to earth, so that with your grace we may bring your awesome presence to earth. Then all might know you better and sing to your praise forever. My Lord and my God!* Amen.

WRS

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