Malachi 3:1-4, 23-24
In today’s Gospel reading, we have Luke’s account of the birth of John the Baptist. For the last few days we have heard about all the remarkable circumstances that led to John’s birth: Zechariah, John’s father, struck mute by the angel Gabriel because of his doubt about what was told to him; Elizabeth, considered barren and too old, conceiving a child; John leaping in the womb when Elizabeth hears Mary’s voice; and all the things we hear today, about Elizabeth telling the relatives that the child’s name was to be John, and Zechariah’s tongue being loosed as he confirms the name among the relatives. When all this happens, the relatives and the townsfolk are wondering what all this means: "What then, will this child be? For surely the hand of the Lord was with him."
There are two things that strike me about this account. The first is that, once Zechariah is able to speak again, he blesses God. I’m not sure I would have done the same thing! I might have complained about being made mute all that time. But Zechariah’s situation does remind us of the value of silence in our lives. When we are willing to listen to God, we may find ourselves singing His praises.
The second thing is the question that the people ask about John: "What, then will this child be?" What are we willing to be? Heralds of the Messiah, like John the Baptist? Those who put their trust in God, like Elizabeth?
Prophets, like Malachi in our first reading? Priests, like Zechariah? Preachers? Teachers? Servants? Even though the circumstances around our birth may not have been as remarkable as the ones around the birth of the Baptist, "the hand of the Lord" is surely with us, too, and we are called to play our part in God’s plan.
As we come closer to Christmas, we may want to reflect on how we are called to proclaim the Good News of our Savior’s birth.
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P. is the
retreat director at St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat Center in Detroit, Michigan.