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.
Two days prior to celebrating the birth of Jesus we take time to reflect on the birth of his forerunner, John the Baptist. John received his name and his mission from God. He was called by God to cry out in the wilderness to make straight the way of the Lord.
“John is his name.” How important it is for each of us to receive our name and our mission from God. Just as John’s name and mission were known by God from the beginning of time, God has known us as well. He knit us in our mother’s womb and sustains us with every breath of life. He calls us by name with a breath of love. He knows the number of hairs on our heads.
John’s mission was a difficult one. He was sent to prepare the way of the Lord in a place that many rejected his message. He was arrested because he told Herod that he should not be with his brother’s wife, Herodias. He was beheaded because of the sin of Herod.
We too are sent into a world that is not always receptive to the message of Jesus Christ. All it takes is a few minutes of watching TV and we can begin to feel despair – unemployment, war, violence, death, recession, immorality, etc. Many of us are touched by some of these things personally. It seems that there is no way out of our personal situation or the world situation. Where is the hope?
Jesus is our hope. And John was His forerunner. John represents the mission of the Church – to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ even when it isn’t popular. He cried out when others thought he was crazy. He pointed out the Lamb of God when others didn’t recognize Him. That is our mission as well.
Lord, we thank you for giving us our name and our mission. Help us to remain faithful to that mission, even in the midst of adversity. May we stay close to the Lord ourselves before we call others to conversion. May we not be afraid of the consequences of crying out in the wilderness of our secular world. May we not lose hope no matter how bad things look. Emmanuel is here with us and will always be with us. He promised never to abandon us.
John was beheaded for speaking the truth. Where am I being sent? What will I do in the face of adversity? What are my fears to speak the name of Christ publically? Help me to further the Church’s mission so that others may know Jesus Christ.