In today’s Gospel reading, as we move closer to celebrate the birth of Jesus, we hear the account of the birth of John the Baptist. Because of all the incredible things that happen around John’s birth: the announcement of his birth to Zechariah in the Temple, which ultimately left Zechariah mute; the fact that Elizabeth, thought to be barren and at her age, conceives and bears a son; the naming of him as John, an unfamiliar name in the family, and then Zechariah able to talk after affirming that his name was John; the people who witness all this say to themselves and each other, ”What, then will this child be? For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.”
We see what John becomes. He becomes the fulfillment of all the prophecies about one who was to come and prepare the way of the Messiah. One of those prophecies is our first reading from Malachi: “Thus says the Lord God: Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me.” And later: “Lo, I will send you Elijah the prophet, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and terrible day, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers…”
I wonder what kind of a world we would have if our ambitions for our children included the notion that they might be messengers of God’s love and would help bring people together, no matter what their profession and vocation might be. And what if we had that ambition for ourselves?
May we not only prepare the way for Jesus to enter more deeply into our hearts, may we also open our hearts that His love will be seen by all with whom we encounter, and we be messengers of reconciliation and peace.
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P., is the local superior at St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Community in Detroit, Michigan.