(June 24) L/12
Is 49: 1-6; Acts 13: 22-26; Lk 1: 57-66, 80
Anecdote: Be the finger of John the Baptist: Karl Barth the great 20th century Calvinist theologian would wake up early in the morning, read the newspaper, and stare at a painting by Grunewald called Crucifixion. Jesus is hanging from the cross, apparently dead, while Mary and others morn. John the Baptist, holding the Scriptures and leaning away from Christ, is pointing to Jesus on the Cross. Before he would teach theology or write in his famous work Church Dogmatics, Karl Barth would meditate on this painting, particularly on John the Baptist. He said that, as a Christian (whether a theologian, pastor, teacher, mother, doctor, storekeeper, etc.), our job is to be the finger (and only the finger), of John the Baptist. The only thing we should do – indeed, the only thing we can do – is simply point to Jesus on the cross. This scene painted by Grunewald is the sum of all history, from Creation in the past to eternity. And we are that finger, and within that finger rests the weight of salvation.
Introduction: We celebrate the feast of John the Baptist's birth this Sunday because of his prominent role in the history of salvation as the forerunner of the Messiah. It was he who prepared Israel to receive their long awaited Messiah by preaching repentance. Since John was the forerunner of Jesus who prepared Israel for her Messiah, the “Servant” messianic prophecy of Isaiah is given as the first reading. The passage expresses important aspects of John’s career as a prophet to God’s people and as a light to the nations who was named and sanctified from his mother’s womb. The second reading describes the mission of John the Baptist. It tells us how John the Baptist, in all humility, publicly acknowledged his role as only the Messiah’s herald, whose role was to prepare Israel to receive the Messiah by inviting the people to receive the baptism of repentance. Today’s gospel describes the birth of John the Baptist and his circumcision and naming ceremony on the eighth day. In the presence of friends and relatives, Zechariah miraculously regains his power speech after declaring in writing, “John is his name.” The name John means “God is gracious The remaining part of the chapter 1 in St. Luke’s gospel describes records Zechariah’s prophecy of the role his son is to take in the history of salvation.
Exegesis: Parallels and contrast between John and Jesus in St. Luke’s infant narratives: Both births are miraculous. John was born of his aged parents and Jesus from a virgin. The births of both were announced by the angel: John’s in the Holy of Holies in the Temple and Jesus’ in a village house. The mission of John was to be the forerunner of the Messiah and the mission of Jesus was to be the saving Messiah. Luke highlights the greatness of Jesus and the subsidiary position of John as the precursor of the Messiah and the herald of God’s coming kingdom.
John’s birth: Since the birth of a boy was an occasion of great joy among the Jews, Zechariah’ s neighbors and relatives and local musicians gathered at the courtyard to celebrate the occasion. At the announcement of John’s birth there was great rejoicing and the musicians broke into music and songs. In Elizabeth's house there was a double joy because at last she had a child in her old age and because that child was a son.
Circumcision and naming ceremony: When friends and relatives had assembled for the naming ceremony, to their great surprise, Elizabeth said that her son must be called John. Zechariah, consulted by the relatives and friends, concurred, writing “John is his name,” on a tablet. At that moment, his muteness was miraculously healed, and he began to praise God. John is a shorter form of the name Jehohanan, which means "Jehovah's gift" or "God is gracious." It was the name which God had commanded the child be given, and it described the parents' gratitude for this unexpected joy. The miraculous birth of the child to the elderly parents, the miraculous healing received by Zechariah and his prophetic hymn about the mission of his son prompted the people gathered there to ask the question, "What will this child turn out to be?"
1) We need to pray for our parents and be thankful to them for the gift of life, the training they have given us and the love and affection they have lavished on us. Let us ask God’s pardon if we are, or were, ungrateful to them, do/did not take proper care of them in their illness or old age or ever inflicted pain on them.
2) We need to remember and pray for our godparents who, by baptism, made us children of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus, heirs of heaven and members of the Church.
3) We need to have the courage of our Christian convictions as John the Baptist did, and we need to become heralds of Christ as John was, by our transparent Christian lives.
Joke of the week (birthday jokes)
1) It's a hot day, and there's a traveling salesman passing through a small town in Texas when he sees a little old man sitting in a rocking chair on the porch of a house. So he stops and says to the little old man, "You look as if you don't have a care in the world! What's your formula for a long and happy life?" And the little old man says, "Well, I smoke six packs of cigarettes a day, I drink a quart of bourbon every four hours and six cases of beer a week. I never wash and I go out every night; I don't get to bed until four in the morning." And the guy says, "Wow, that's just great. How old are you?" And the little man says, "Twenty-two."
2) A little boy was kneeling beside his bed with his mother and grandmother and softly saying his prayers, "Dear God, please bless Mummy and Daddy and all the family and please give me a good night's sleep." Suddenly he looked up and shouted, "And don't forget to give me a bicycle for my birthday!!" "There is no need to shout like that," said his mother. "God isn't deaf." "No," said the little boy, "but Grandma is."