Today, our church celebrates the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist. In order to understand the importance of this Feast we must look at the two important women who speak in today’s Gospel – Mary, who becomes the mother of Jesus and Elizabeth, who becomes the mother of John.
You and I are so conditioned by cell phones and all of our other devices that give us instant communication that we have to remember that they had none of that. As we know, Mary learned about Elizabeth’s pregnancy though the angel, Gabriel. Notice Mary’s reaction, she does not think about herself. At once she tells her family that she has to go to see Elizabeth, who is pregnant and in her sixth month. We have to remember that Elizabeth does not know that Mary is coming. As scripture relates, at the moment Elizabeth hears the voice of Mary, the baby in her womb leaps for joy.
Once Elizabeth became pregnant, her shame was taken away. What was that “shame”? Simply that she never had any children. I love to hear Elizabeth’s response: “How does it happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.” (Luke 1:43-44) Remember, like Mary, Elizabeth did not know that Mary was pregnant. Here were two women of faith – one to be the mother of God and the other to be mother to the one who would announce the Messiah. Just think of all that the both of them shared together that day and the three months that Mary stayed with her.
In today’s Gospel, Zechariah gets, as it were, a bad rap, unlike Mary’s questioning that leads to faith and a wonderful resolve. Zechariah’s response leads to silence, he cannot speak. But in one sense, that silence spoke volumes, for the people knew that something wonderful happened to him and his wife. So on the day of their son’s birth, Elizabeth told the people that his name would be John, they could not understand it. So they asked Zechariah what he should be called. He wrote down that his name would be John and at once he began to speak.
In the life of Mary, Elizabeth, and Zechariah, we see the hand of God bringing about the process of our salvation. All three had a wonderful faith that would allow them to accept what God had in store for them and for us.
The beauty of John the Baptist is that he understood his role in the process: “He must increase; I must decrease.” (John3: 30). The role that John has is the very same role that Jesus gave to us. We have to constantly remind ourselves that we are not the message; we are only the message bearer.
The message is always Jesus.
God Bless, Father Ray