Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her,and they rejoiced with her. When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, ‘No. He will be called John.’ But they answered her, ‘There is no one among your relatives who has this name.’ So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, ‘John is his name,’ and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. 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. The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel” (Luke 1:57-66, 80).

The adults around John the Baptist had reasons to wonder what this baby would do with his life. One reason was that the birth of John was foretold to his father, Zachariah, by the archangel Gabriel (Luke 1:13). Another reason was that John’s mother, Elizabeth, was childless and well beyond the age for childbirth. Still another reason was that, as today’s Gospel reading recalls, Gabriel had taken away Zachariah’s ability to speak after Zachariah refused to believe the angel (Luke 1:20) and restored it only after Zachariah gave the unborn child the name the angel had prescribed. No wonder people asked, “What, then, will this child become?”

The only person who could answer that question, in the fullness of time, was John himself. Certainly, when he “grew and became strong in spirit,” John discerned God’s will. John understood that God wanted him to call on people to re-form their lives, to live with each other in a relationship of social and economic justice, and to prepare for the immanent coming of the messiah, the judge and savior of the world.

This was not a simple vocation. By deciding to undertake it, John was deciding to forgo any occupation that might have provided him with common food, clothing, and housing. He was deciding to forgo any chance at status and privilege. Moreover, he was deciding to confront people who were comfortable in their positions of wealth and power, people who were not accustomed to looking honestly at their lives and their relationships. He was deciding to make himself the target of what turned out to be a lethal antagonism. This was the future John accepted when he accepted the will of God.

How have you responded when you have felt God calling you to do something that might disrupt the usual order of your life?

Adapted from PrayerTime: Faith-Sharing Reflections on the Sunday Gospels, available at the RENEW International store