Gospel Reflections

Feast of the Birth of John the Baptist

Luke 1:57-66, 80

Sunday Gospel Reflection by Sister Brigid Rose Tiernan

Published: June 24, 2018

Read Luke 1:57-66, 80

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... Read More…

Today we celebrate the birthday of John the Baptist, the third of three birthdays celebrated in the Church’s calendar year. A few weeks ago, we were reminded, at the feast of the Visitation, of the meeting of two mothers-to-be, John’s mother Elizabeth, who must have longed for a child, but had long given up the hope of such. The second, Mary, pregnant with Jesus, perhaps still experiencing the shock of her unexpected pregnancy, had come to her older cousin, Elizabeth, to assist and strengthen, and be assisted and strengthened in return.

Elizabeth’s pregnancy must have been further complicated by the fact that her incredulous husband, Joachim, had doubted and had lost his ability to speak. This however, we are told in today’s Gospel, was reversed at his infant son’s circumcision, when Joachim agreed with his wife’s pronouncement of the baby’s name as John.

The Gospel of Luke goes on to tell us that "their neighbours were filled with awe," and the whole event was talked about throughout the hill country of Judaea. One can imagine, even 20 centuries before the internet and mass communication, how the locals must have wondered and talked about this child in his early years and watched his development and manhood unfolding with skepticism and puzzlement. Would the questions of his neighbours have been picked up by the growing John, and contributed to his move into the desert, and his somewhat extraordinary way of life there. Born in his parents’ old age, one can presume that he did not have them for very long into his adult life, also perhaps contributing to his solitariness and his passionate life search for ‘the One who is to come’.

Recently I lost a dear friend after a battle with cancer, who was a pupil of mine over forty years ago,and who has kept contact with me throughout her life. As a teenager, she was always different, having a very artistic and creative temperament, and already then being an outstanding musician. Her notable differences to others in her class made her a challenge to accompany in her teenage years. Her parents and her teachers always tried to help her channel her giftedness, perhaps not very successfully. In her early twenties she represented Young South African musicians at a music congress in Argentina, discovered music therapy, and went on to become a leading music therapist in the Western world. She faced her death with the same creative and innovative approach that she had brought to her whole life sharing this with many who had been part of her life journey. Her death at the beginning of June rounded off and completed a life lived bringing healing and wholeness through music and helped those of us who have been part of this life for most if it, understand its early years, and see them as the foundation of what was to come.

And so, returning to John the Baptist, and the celebration of his birth this weekend, perhaps the significance of this birth is better understood as we reflect on the rest of his life and the way it ended. John was chosen by God from the very outset to prepare the way of the Lord. Each of us, chosen by God, and consecrated at baptism, has a similar call: to live in such a way as to help God’s reign come about on earth, and particularly in our corner of it. May the Feast of the Birthday of John the Baptist enable each of us to dedicate ourselves anew to being precursors of the Good News that God’s Reign has begun in Jesus and will ultimately prevail.

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