Gospel: Lk 1:57-66, 80
When the time came for Elizabeth, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the merciful Lord had done a wonderful thing for her, and they rejoiced with her.
When, on the eighth day, they came to attend the circumcision of the child, they wanted to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “Not so; he shall be called John.” They said to her, “But no one in your family has that name!” and they made signs to his father for the name he wanted to give him. Zechariah asked for a writing tablet, and 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.
Today we are celebrating the birth of one of the holiest and greatest men of history. This is a remarkable thing in itself, because we usually celebrate the day on which saints die, not the day they were born. The only births we celebrate in the liturgy are those of Jesus, Mary, and John. And this is entirely fitting, for all three were born without original sin (Lk 1:15).
All this is very interesting, but what about us? We are not great saints—or even small ones for that matter. What does the birth of John the Baptist tell us?
The first reading provides an answer to this quite legitimate question. It says: “Yahweh called me from my mother’s womb; he pronounced my name before I was born… I am important in the sight of Yahweh.” Do we believe that we are, each one of us, important in the sight God? How could we not be important in the sight of God when he sent his Son to live and die for each one of us? Jesus assures us that even all the hairs of our head are counted (Mt 10:30) because each one of us is so terribly important in the eyes of our heavenly Father. Once we believe this truth, we can face life with a quiet heart.
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