The Solemnity of St John the Baptist

 

See the readings here

The first reading from Isaiah 49:1-6, reveals to us the message of a prophet for the Jews in exile in Babylon.  They were feeling let down by God; they did realise that they had not been as faithful to God as they should have been, but they had always thought that God had chosen them and they were his special people and he was the God who would always see them alright.  The prophet, who might have felt the same, had drawn from this experience a deeper understanding of what being chosen by God meant.  The people were chosen for a purpose and for a service in God’s purpose; they were chosen to show the favour of God to everyone, for all the nations of the world.  This was a hard message for the exiles to accept!

In the second reading, from Acts 13:22-26, Luke tells us the way the St Paul saw this notion of being chosen.  In the past king David was especially set up by God, to start a whole line of successors who would look after the people.  John started preaching and baptising people to express their re-dedication to the work of God, their change of heart – that’s what the word ‘repentance’ means here.  But John was not to be the ultimate saviour of people – that was to be Jesus.

The Gospel is from the first chapter of Luke, verses 57 to 66 with verse 80 tagged on to the end.  It leaves out the words of an ancient hymn, which is known nowadays, by some, as the Benedictus – “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel for He has visited His people…”   What the reading tells us is about Mary’s cousin Elisabeth giving birth at a great age to this son who became John the Baptist.  Luke has previous told the readers how an angel appeared to the father, Zechariah, to announce this birth, but he had been struck dumb, for he couldn’t believe it was happening to him and his wife at their age; but he did know that the child should be called John which means ‘God is good to us.’

Comment

It is easy for a Christian sometimes, to feel special to God in a possessive and proud way, but to the purpose of being chosen by God, is always to contribute to the enterprise of God, namely to creating an ideal world of people, not only loved by God, but loving God and being entirely pleasing to him.  During this life here, when God’s work is not complete, there are many things in the world and society (even in the Church) which are quite a lot less than they should be; this is for us, like being in exile, but from it we should learn that the purpose of our life is to work towards the all-embracing completion of God’s work, at least in our own small little way.

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