Malachi 3:1-4, 23-24
In our Gospel reading from Luke which we heard last Sunday, the angel Gabriel tells Mary that her relative, Elizabeth, considered barren and in her old age, had conceived a son, for "nothing will be impossible for God." As we near the fulfillment of the angel’s words concerning Mary, we hear today the fulfillment of his words concerning Elizabeth and her son, John, who later became known as John the Baptist.
The birth of John the Baptist is remarkable in its own right. Rejoicing with her that she has given birth, Elizabeth’s neighbors and relatives are prepared to call the baby Zechariah, but she tells them the baby’s name is to be John. Not understanding this, they turn to Zechariah the father. Zechariah, struck mute by the angel Gabriel because he couldn’t bring himself to believe what the angel said about Elizabeth conceiving a child, has to write on a tablet that the baby’s name is John. When Zechariah does that, he is able to speak, and begins to praise God. When the people there see all these things, they begin to wonder about the baby and ask, "What, then, will this child be?"
We know what John the Baptist turns out to be: the herald of Jesus. He is seen as the fulfillment of all those prophecies that foretell of a messenger sent ahead of the Messiah to prepare His way. But the same question that was asked about John could be asked about us. As we near the end of this Advent season, what, then, will we be? Are we willing to be heralds of the Good News? Are we willing to prepare the way for others to welcome Jesus, not only in these last days before Christmas, but for the months and years ahead? It may be hard to see ourselves in that role, but we shouldn’t let that strike us mute. Instead, like Elizabeth who was filled with the Holy Spirit when she greeted Mary, and like Zechariah whose tongue was loosed after the naming of his son, and like John the Baptist himself, we are to witness to the wonders God has done for us in Jesus Christ.
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P. is pastor of St. Mary’s Parish, Fairfield, Alabama.