Luke 1:57-66, 80
Today is the feast day of the birth of John the Baptist. The memory of John the Baptist has been important in Christianity starting with Jesus. "Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet." "I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; Mt 11:11 He is mentioned some 92 times in New Testament.
In today’s gospel there is importance given to his name: "His name is John." We know in ancient times how a child was named was his description. For example, Nathanael (‘God has given [this child]’), and Shemaiah (‘Yahweh has heard [the parents’ prayer]’ Ichabod (‘where is the glory?’ 1 Samuel 4:19-22 Ark captured when born) Menachem (‘comforter’).
The name John means God (Yahweh) plus gracious (chanan). Yahweh is gracious. John was a gifted man. "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." The early word for prophet in Hebrew was seer or roeh. We must all act as prophets at times in our lives. We must have a deep insight into God and communicate it to those around us. Prophesying is among the hardest things we will ever be asked to do.
Fr. Bob Weiss, C.P. preaches Parish Missions and is a member of the Passionist Community in Louisville, Kentucky.