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The birth of John

Gospel Reading: Lk 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.

The Church liturgy celebrates the birth of only three persons: Jesus, his mother Mary, and John the Baptist. There are several reasons for commemorating John’s birth.

First, the birth of every human being is a cause for joy. True, some speak of “unwanted pregnancies” and “unwanted babies.” But even the hardest heart of an unnatural mother cannot suppress (at least for a moment) the thrill of holding her baby in her arms for the first time.

Second, John’s birth is not ordinary. He was blessed by Mary and Jesus when she carried him in her womb to Elizabeth (cf Lk 1:44).

Third, as Gabriel told John’s father Zechariah, “He will be great in the sight of the Lord” (Lk 1:15). There were many people before John who were “great in the sight of God”: Abraham, Moses, David, and the prophets. But John will be the only prophet to point at the Messiah and tell the people: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29).

About him and only about him Jesus will say, “I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John” (Lk 7:28).

Jesus will give three reasons for John’s greatness: John lived an ascetic, holy life; he was a prophet speaking boldly in the name of God, and he was the one preparing the people for the public ministry of Jesus.

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SOURCE: “366 Days with the Lord,” ST PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: publishing@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.