Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Advent
Malachi 3:1-4, 23-24
Perhaps you’ve heard about the lawsuit against McDonald’s for enticing children to eat unhealthy foods by way of offering toys in their "Happy Meals." This has spurred discussion once again about the role of parents in bringing up their children.
This came to mind as I reflected on our Gospel reading, which relates the events around the birth of John the Baptist. You may remember that Elizabeth, John’s mother, was thought to be incapable of having children, and that Zechariah, John’s father, was struck mute by the angel Gabriel, because he had trouble believing what the angel told him about Elizabeth conceiving a child.
When Mary visits her, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit when she greets Mary (See December 21st). When John is born, and about to be named, and the relatives ask Zechariah what the boy should be named, he affirms what Elizabeth told them, and writes on a tablet, "John is his name." And Zechariah’s mouth is opened, he is filled with the Holy Spirit, and he blesses God.
So we see Elizabeth and Zechariah filled with the Holy Spirit. Years later we see John also filled with the Holy Spirit, preparing the way for Jesus. As Elizabeth and Zechariah raised John, can we not imagine them telling him how he had been blessed by God from the very beginning of his life?
Wouldn’t it be good to share with our children that they have been blessed by God, and that there are more important things than what the world tells them. Perhaps we could cultivate and encourage their openness to the Holy Spirit dwelling within them, so that they could fulfill their part of God’s plan.
It often is a struggle for parents to combat the unhealthy images children see, and the negative voices children hear. But we, adults, too, have the Holy Spirit! We, too, like Elizabeth and Zechariah, can sing God’s praises to our children! May we help our children recognize what was seen in John the Baptist-that the "hand of the Lord" is with them.
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P. is the director of St. Paul of the Cross Retreat and Conference Center, Detroit, Michigan.