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The Blessing of Mission
Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist
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 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.
Opening Prayer: Lord, I offer you this moment of prayer as an act of love for you. I lift up my heart with praise and thanksgiving for all the gifts you have given me, especially for the gift of faith and the hope of eternity with you. Lord, I believe that you provide me with all I need to grow closer to you and to live a life that honors you. I ask for the grace to be able to recall all that you have done in my life to draw me closer to you so that I can thank you and grow in my trust of your faithful presence in my life.
- What, Then, Will This Child Be?: Other than the birthdays of Jesus and Mary, the only birthday celebrated during the liturgical year is John the Baptist’s, and it is not only celebrated, it is a solemnity. Jesus himself said, “I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John” (Luke 7:28). Yet, at this moment of his circumcision, the question was “What, then, will this child be? For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.” In this case, the angel had told Zechariah that John had a particular mission (Luke 1:15-17). Zechariah and Elizabeth then had the task of helping John prepare for this God-given mission. In a sense, all parents and relatives wonder as they look at a new baby what the child will become. We have hopes and dreams for them. As parents or godparents, and grandparents, we are called to help them realize their personal vocation, their God-given mission (John Paul II, Christifideles Laici 58) so that every child can one day become a saint.
- Blessing God: Zechariah had been mute all the months of Elizabeth’s pregnancy as a consequence of his disbelief in the angel’s message foretelling the pregnancy and John’s mission (cf. Luke 1:20). Here when he affirmed that the child’s name was to be John, he could speak and he blessed God. These words of his blessing form a canticle called the Benedictus, which is prayed daily as part of Morning Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours (Luke 1:67-79). Zechariah’s words celebrate not only the birth of John but the hope of Israel. They celebrate God’s redemption and mercy, the fact that God fulfills his promises; he forgives us and saves us, and that “we can be holy and righteous in his sight.”
- He Grew and Became Strong in Spirit…: Just as Jesus had to “advance in wisdom and age and favor” (Luke 2:52), so too John had to grow and become strong in spirit. It should be no surprise then that our faith journey requires growth. One of the greatest aids to growth in our Christian life can be spiritual direction. The Lord loves each person individually and personally. In spiritual direction, the director helps an individual recognize and be attentive to God’s communication so that the directee can grow in intimacy with him and follow him more closely. The director accompanies and encourages the directee in their Christian walk.
Conversing with Christ: Lord, there are so many ways to be complacent. I can forget that every good thing comes from your hand. I can forget that your love for me is personal. I can doubt that you will provide what I need. I can focus on my will and not yours. I can forget to spend time in praise, thanksgiving, and adoration. Lord, thank you for your love and forgiveness in the face of my weakness and self-centeredness. Help me grow in my generosity and desire to love with my whole heart, to love you in a way that orders my life.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will pray the words of Zechariah’s canticle in Luke 1:67-79 and share with someone one way that the Lord has acted in my life.
For Further Reflection: Watch this brief description of spiritual direction.
Janet McLaughlin and her husband, Chris, live on a mountain in rural northeastern Oregon. She puts her Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies to work as she shares the beauty and importance of the lay vocation in her writing, speaking, and teaching on spiritual topics.