"There is no one among your relatives who has this name." So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, "John is his name," and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, "What, then, will this child be?" For surely the hand of the Lord was with him. The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.
Today, for the third time since Pentecost, the Sunday liturgy of ordinary time gives way to a feast, a great feast: that of the Birth of John the Baptizer, he who was chosen by God to prepare for the coming of his Son into this world! It is indeed a great feast, a feast of joy, but above all a feast of mercy! For Elizabeth, the mother of John, was barren (cf. Lk. 1:7 and 36) and she gratuitously - through the grace of God - received the extraordinary favor of conceiving a son in her old age (cf. Lk. 1:36).
But if this is a feast of mercy, it is above all because the birth of John proclaims the coming birth of the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God made man, sent to earth to redeem humanity from the death of sin. With the birth of John, all of humanity finds itself at a turning point in its history: from that point on, the world will no longer be in the darkness of sin, but rather the grace of God will, little by little, win over the hearts of humanity in order to bring them into the light of God’s love and grace.
When John was born, his father, Zechariah, was unable to speak. Nine months earlier, when Zechariah was in the Temple, an Angel of the Lord appeared to him to announce that his wife was going to have a son: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John..." (Lk. 1:13) But Zechariah doubted the power of God and, as a consequence of that doubt, the angel said to him: "You will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things come to pass, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time." (Lk. 1:20)
During the nine months of his wife's pregnancy, Zechariah had time to reflect upon all this and to meditate upon the goodness and the mercy of the Lord who had blessed his family with this birth, with the result that one of his descendants would be he who was to proclaim to all the People of God the coming of the Messiah! So, when the moment came to give his son a name, he did not hesitate: he confirmed what his wife Elizabeth had said: "His name is John!" By writing on a tablet the name that the angel had dictated to him, Zechariah manifested his faith in the word of God, and, as the angel had foretold, Zechariah recovered the use of his voice...
Truly, the birth of John the Baptizer takes place at a decisive moment, one that is crucial to all humanity. Zechariah, his father, is the first witness of this: he goes from being incredulous to becoming a believer; from being dumb to becoming the one who proclaims the praises and the blessings of the Almighty God! The world will change, for the Messiah is here! Already, he has sanctified John in the womb of his mother; already, mercy goes forth throughout the earth, for God comes to save humanity in order to transform humanity into a new creation, a creation according to the heart of God.
John is a man upon whom rests the hand of God: "the hand of the Lord was with him". From that point on, John bears a name which did not belong to his ancestors: he bears a new name! A name is what expresses the entire personality of a being. And when God bestows a name upon someone, this means that one who receives this name is truly known as such in the very Spirit of God.
Now, the name of John means "grace". By naming him John, God already sees in him his own Son; John is not the Son of God made human, but it is he who announces him, it is he who is his living sign. Another John, who wrote the fourth Gospel, understood this very well, for he says: "There was a man sent from God, whose name was John... He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light. The Word was the true Light..." (Jn. 1:6-9)
Everyone has his own vocation. And so does John - an unusual vocation, it is true. Like everyone else who is called by God, John must interiorly prepar for the mission that had been entrusted to him. This was his life. This was his life with the Spirit of God. Is this not a counterpart - although a rather faint one - of the preparation of Mary for the coming of the Lord into her on the day of the Annunciation? For Mary had also received a new name from God: the angel Gabriel called her by the name of "full of grace" (Lk. 1:28)!
We, too, have a name and a mission that God has given us. We, too, are called to testify to the light of Christ. Just as John accepted his mission and said yes to God, we must also be willing to say “yes” to what God has planned for us. May we see John as an example for us on this day, for the grace of God to come into our hearts and make us new creations according to the heart of God. May we be united in a single faith, a single hope, a single love, and in an eternal communion with the Christ, who we are called to announce to all the world.
Valentine Faith Community
Mass: 10AM Every Sunday
2670 Chandler Avenue
Suite 7 & 8
Las Vegas, NV 89120
702-523-8963 Rev Sue Provost, Pastor