Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father.
But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
Today we commemorate the birth of St. John the Baptist. One aspect of his life is that of “holy irony”. His mother was barren, well-past the years of natural fertility; his father was aged as well. Yet their ability to conceive John in this most unlikely circumstance is through the intent of God – a holy irony.
This particular passage in Luke’s Gospel focuses on the naming of John the Baptist. His father, Zechariah, has earlier questioned the angel of God about the whole meaning of this child’s purpose, including the name to be given to his child, and had thus lost his ability to speak. Finally, when Zechariah proclaims “John is his name,” his gift of speech returns. The holy irony is that Zechariah’s obedience to the Word of God results in his freedom of speech.
The holy irony of Christian faith is that we discover our own joy and freedom when we stop seeking it on our own accord, and when we surrender our self-will to God’s Will. The holy irony of our lives of Christian discipleship is that we find our true selves in lives of service and charity. The holy irony of love and forgiveness is that these virtues grow within us through our giving them away.
Where and how have I grown in faith, hope and love by giving these away to others?
When and how has God surprised me with totally what I needed, once I let go of what I wanted?
—Fr. Glen Chun, S.J. is minister of the Loyola University Jesuit Community, Chicago, and also serves on the vocations staff for the Chicago-Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus
Lord, we desire to surrender our self-will to your will. As we grow in cultivating a heart of service, we believe that we will find our true selves. We anticipate your wonderful surprises once we let go of our narrowed expectations and wait on you.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team