The Nativity of John the Baptist – 2020
What then will this child become?
I had a great niece born as the great pandemic was moving into prominence here in Canada. I realized that her parents will have to eventually explain the global situation to her, to explain the scary reality of going to a hospital to give birth in mid-March 2020.
I’ve no doubt that Maria and Samuel will have stories to tell Nora Mae. I imagine that they, like any parents of a healthy new born, at any time in history, breath a sigh of relief and gratitude, and wonder about the world that their child will grow up in.
Will she continue to have good health? What will the world be like when she turns twenty in 2040? What will the world be like for opportunities for a twenty year old young woman?
Elizabeth and Zechariah were no different that other couples, with the obvious exception of their age. Their child, John the Baptist, was the precursor of Jesus of Nazareth. But Elizabeth and Zechariah simply saw him as their child, a son granted to them in their old age. John’s birth and the physical effect on his father Zechariah (his mouth being opened and his tongue freed) is the cause of fear in their neighbours, plenty of talk in the land, and much speculation and pondering about the child’s future.
What then will this child become. Even apart from any sense that this elderly couple had that John had a special role (doesn’t every parent naturally think of her and his newborn as special!), they were likely grateful that the hand of the Lord was with him … the child grew and became strong in spirit. That’s very similar to what we hear in the Gospel about Jesus: he increased in wisdom and in favour with God.
Today’s Responsorial Psalm is from Psalm 139. Being a devout Jew, John the Baptist probably recited and prayed with it.
It was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
It’s no mistake that Psalm 139 is among the common scripture offered to retreatants to pray with. If there were a list of common scripture passages offered to people close to the start of their retreat, Psalm 139 would make the top ten.
Even someone as jaded and cynical as I am is not opposed to praying with it, or suggesting it to people. Having that intimate sense of being a loved child of God is a gift for us. It is the precursor to many more gifts from God.
Today we acknowledge the birth of someone who had a significant role to play, but he was able to always keep his gaze on the one for whom he prepared the way. Let us pray for that same grace of keeping our focus on the Lord.