A reading from the gospel according to Luke 1:57-66, 80
57 When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son.
58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her.
59 When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father,
60 but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.”
61 But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.”
62 So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.
63 He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed.
64 Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God.
65 Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea.
66 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.
80 The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.
The gospel reminds us of the birth of John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus. He was born to Elizabeth who was past normal child bearing years and her husband Zachary was in disbelief about having a son of old age. Hence, Zachary became mute as a form of punishment for his lack of faith. We hear in the gospel that as soon as he wrote the name John, his tongue was loosened and he was able to speak again.
John was born under unique circumstances. His parents did not choose his name. It was given from above which is derived from the Hebrew Yohanan, meaning “graced by God.” He was born with a very special mission – to prepare the way of the Lord. The child then grew and he was filled with God’s Spirit. He went on to live in the desert until the day of his public ministry.
There are three most important lessons that we can learn from our gospel reading.
1. Like John, we were also born with a purpose. We have our own special mission in life which was given to us from birth. Part of our mission is to find out our mission if we have not yet found it. But generally, as believers, we share in the mission of John – that is, to prepare the way for others to find Christ. By becoming light, we make the path of others easier in their journey towards the Kingdom. Woe to us if we become their stumbling block instead.
2. Like John, we did not choose our parents and even our names. We must learn to accept who we are and strive to love our parents and others for who they are. There is an old saying that says: “What we are is our gift from God and our parents; what we become is our gift to them.”
3. We have our weaknesses and so we need to be “graced by God”. We need the guidance of the Spirit for us to accomplish our mission. We need to constantly ask for strength through prayers. Like John, we should find time to go into the “desert” to be in communion with our creator because “apart for Him, we can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Let us now join the Psalmist in singing praises to God because we were fearfully and wonderfully made and His works are wonderful. (Psalm 139:14)