24th June, Feast of the Birth of Saint John the Baptist
The birth of a child is always a joyous event. Family members, relatives, friends, all gather around this bundle of new life. If we are people of faith, we might be put in mind of today’s responsorial psalm, ‘For it was you who created my being, knit me together in my mother’s womb. I thank you for the wonder of my being, for the wonders of all your creation’. There was great excitement when a child was born to Elizabeth and Zechariah, because Elizabeth was getting on in years. The gospel reading says that Elizabeth’s neighbours and relations shared her joy. A lot of thought usually goes into the naming of a child. Nowadays there are a whole host of names to choose from, some of them quite exotic. However, in the culture of Israel in the time of Jesus, naming children was a much more conservative business, as it used to be in Ireland. The naming of a child entailed the carrying on of a tradition; the child was called after a parent or a grandparent. That was why when Elizabeth and Zechariah chose a name for their child that had never been in the family tradition, the name ‘John’, it caused quite a stir. ‘No one in your family has that name’. Names in Hebrew often had a religious meaning. The name ‘John’ meant ‘the Lord is gracious’. The Lord had been gracious to Elizabeth and Zechariah by giving them a child and he had been gracious to all of us because this child would prepare people for the coming of God’s Son. The birth of this child was the beginning of something wonderful for us all. The question of those who witnessed the birth of this child was a very appropriate one, ‘What will this child turn out to be?’ We can answer that question. He turned out to be the forerunner of the Messiah; the one who launched Jesus on his public ministry by baptizing him in the Jordan. The question of those in the gospel reading can be asked of ourselves at any stage of our lives, ‘What will I turn out to be?’ ‘From this day of my life onwards?’ We are called to keep growing up into the person of Christ. That is the calling of a lifetime, which can only be fully responded to in the power of the Spirit.
Twitter: @SJtBClontarf RC