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. The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.
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.
Today our Church celebrates the feast of the birth of John the Baptist, the prophet who went ahead of Jesus, preaching a baptism of repentance. In the Gospel reading, we read about how John pointed to something greater than himself even from his birth. Rendered mute after questioning the word of the angel who told him that he would have a son, John’s father Zechariah remained unable to speak until the day of John’s birth. Only after announcing that his son would be named John, the name given to him by the angel, did Zechariah regain his speech. It was this sign that caused people to ask “What, then, will this child be?” In today’s second reading, Paul recounts how John himself answers this question by saying, “What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.”
In each account of John’s ministry, we hear him rejecting praise and acclamation for himself, turning the focus instead to Jesus. From birth, John pointed toward Jesus, the one who came after him. Do our actions bring focus on ourselves, or do they point others toward Christ?
—The Jesuit Prayer team
Lord, I’m not turning back.
All that I have I now give to you.
Ask me whatever;
I never want to betray you.
—Carlo Maria Martini, SJ, All That I Have I Give