Today, we celebrate the birth of St. John the Baptist, the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth. John is the cousin of Jesus, son of Mary and Joseph. He is the promised voice in the wilderness as prophesied by Isaiah, the prophet. John the Baptist is well- known as a prophet who preached about the Kingdom of God and invited the people of Israel to return to God thru repentance and conversion. John the Baptist is mentioned the Prayer of the Church, in the Roman Canon and Litany of Saints. John the Baptizer is honored and considered as the last prophet of the Old Testament as he prepared the coming of Jesus, the promised Messiah, the savior who is the only begotten Son of God.
Let us read and reflect on the account of the birth of John the Baptist as written by Luke.
“When the time came for Elizabeth, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that te merciful Lord had done a wonderful thing for her, and they rejoiced with her. When, on the eight day, they came to attend the circumcision of the child, they wanted to name him Zechariah after his father. But the mother said, ‘Not so; he shall be called John.’ They said to her, ‘But no one in your family has that name!’ and they asked the father, by means of signs, for the name he wanted to give him. Zechariah asked for a writing tablet, ad 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 hill country 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; and he lived in the desert until the day when he appeared openly in Israel.” —Luke 1: 57-66, 80
John was chosen by God. John was a man like us who lived more than two thousand years ago in ascetic life and holiness. He was conceived by the grace of God and grew up very religious under the guidance of his parents Zechariah and Elizabeth. Mary, the mother of Jesus was close to the family of John as Mary hurriedly went to visit and stayed for a longer period when she heard that Elizabeth was bearing a son whom we know as John. When John was born, the whole neighborhood and relatives of his parents were surprised and wondered as they were in awe (which means in the state of holy fear of the Lord).
All of us have different stories of our birthing and becoming; from our mother’s womb and our growing up. Our parents would tell us stories and explain events on why we were conceived and how we were born. To make the storytelling more attractive, sometimes our parents would include characters, like the attending physician, or midwife, or the medicinal man/ woman (manghihilot). The naming of the new born child is likewise a collective task to perform; most of the time the name is taken from the combination of names of our grandparents, or the name of a very close and dear friend, or who is the saint of the day, or from a famous person of celebrity in that particular period of time, or from the father who would want to have his name retained, thus ensuring that the child becomes his “junior” version thru his name. The name has a meaning to bear and the naming is such a communal affair.
But for those who follow Jesus, Christian is our name, it is our shared name when one lives in Christ. We have to live up with that name, Christian.
For John it was a grace to be called and chosen for a specific role and task; to be the voice in the wilderness. And God wanted him to be named John, and Zechariah and Elizabeth knew everything that they are favored by God as John is God’s chosen forebear. John is blessed to be the precursor of Jesus though unworthy to be one. He prepared the way for the Messiah, making straight the crooked paths the people had taken. We will know later that John’s voice from the desert reached the entire land that challenged and threatened the oppressive powers that- be during that period.
Today, as Christians, we continue to be challenged and reminded by John to always repent and believe in the good news. Let us therefore be guided by these questions in our reflection:
Do I recognize the goodness and mercy of God in my life that I continue to celebrate and hold dearly today?
Have I become the voice of God in proclaiming glad tidings to the poor, freedom to the captives, light to the blind and misled?
Have I changed my old self to my new and authentic self?
Have I grown in faith and strengthened in the spirit like John the Baptist?
Have I become God’s channel of love, mercy and peace?
Prayer: Loving God, may we become worthy messengers of your Kingdom just like St. John the Baptist who reminded the people to change their lives, repent and believe in God. Look on us with pity Lord, as nations and peoples are into war and conflicts because of pride, arrogance and indifference. There is no way to peace but peace itself; and we can be only at peace (in shalom, in salaam) when we follow the will of God for us and pattern our very lives to the standards and commandments of the Lord. May we always hear the voice of John the Baptist not only from the desert of this world but also from the wilderness of our hearts, from our families and communities, and from the world. May we also be a voice for the God’s message of salvation and love to our least brothers and sisters in our midst. This we ask through Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever, Amen.