June 24, 2020 – Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist
7th Day of Novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help
Click here for the readings (http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/062420-day.cfm)
Have you been in a point in your life when everything seemed to be so devastating?
Though you recognized that there are blessings but then, life for you appeared to be so unfair. Because of the difficult circumstances in our life, these could lead us to believe that we are in total misery. Perhaps because of the many failures you had in life that it becomes difficult to see any hope. Possibly because of the misfortunes that happened with your relationships, with your job or business that you also seemed to believe that God has completely forgotten about you. The unfavorable turn of events in your family or your other relationships could have led you this moment to believe that you have been deprived of happiness.
Such experiences and belief may lead us to become cold towards God’s graciousness in us. As a result, we may become dismissive of God’s invitations and graces intended for our growth and participation in God’s plan for us and for our community.
This has been the case of this man, Zechariah. In fact, there were many interesting events surrounding the life of this priest of the temple. The Gospel told us that Zechariah became mute, he could not speak after the angel revealed to him that God’s graciousness was upon him. Zechariah did not believe and dismissed God’s grace that he and his wife will have a son.
What led Zechariah to become like this was the failures and shame he experienced in his life, as a man, as a husband, and as a priest of the temple. We knew that Zechariah and Elizabeth had no son until they were very old. With those many years of being childless they endured the shame of having no child.
Their culture and faith believed that a childless couple was cursed and punished by God for the sins they committed or committed by their ancestors. Yet, Zechariah knew that he and his wife did not deserve such curse and punishment. Zechariah must have prayed a lot to God to give them a child. Yet, for those many years of praying, heaven seemed to be so silent. God was seemed to be so far away from him.
Interestingly, God had not revealed anything to His chosen people for the past 400 years. God’s last revelation through a prophet was in the Book of Malachi. And for that long period of waiting, Zechariah also must have become too tired from waiting.
This looked natural to a person who believed that God had already forgotten him. Zechariah, therefore, performed his duties in the temple mechanically. His heart too had grown tired and indifferent. This was the reason why he couldn’t believe the words of the angel. Instead of listening and welcoming God’s grace, he rather argued and rejected it as nonsense.
That’s why Zechariah was deprived of his voice and hearing. It was God’s way of telling Zechariah that he ought to be more conscious of God’s presence and of God’s graciousness expressed in many ways.
Indeed, the birth of John was the greatest sign for Zechariah and Elizabeth that indeed God did not forget them. The birth of this child led Zechariah to affirm that God is gracious. In fact, the name John means God is gracious.
In that graciousness of God, he made John as the very instrument to bring people back to God, and to lead people closer to God. This had been the experience of Zechariah. God never left him. It was Zechariah who gradually distanced himself from the Lord. Thus, through the birth of John, this son was bringing back his father back to God. John was the herald, the announcer who guided people to the Lord.
This is what we have heard in the first reading. In the prophecy of the Book of Isaiah, this person shall be a light of the nations because he will teach, lead and gather the people to see God. The birth of this person is not by accident but planned well by God.
Isaiah described God calling his herald even before his birth. This herald has been named and appointed by God to lead his people. This is God’s promise to be first fulfilled through the participation of humanity, through us.
The birth of John then, is God’s manifestation that He is indeed gracious and faithful despite our unbelief and doubts. God continues to reveal himself to us even though we refuse to believe or when we become indifferent.
This was the role of John and that was to bring people again to believe that God has never abandoned us. God remembers us and with us. This made John a great and important prophet because he reminded the people about God, made people recognize God and brought them close to God. Yet, because of this role of John, he paid it with his life. He was martyred, beheaded actually, because of this cause to make people recognize God.
On this 7th day also of our Novena-Mass in honor of Mary, Our Mother of Perpetual Help, we remember in a special way those who are greatly suffering and stricken by wars and conflicts caused by issues of racism and imperialism. Many of our brothers and sisters have been displaced, died and in dire state because of war and conflicts.
Hopefully, through our devotion to Mary and through the invitation of God on this Solemnity of John the Baptist, each of us also will become instruments of God’s graciousness. In the way we live our life, perform our duties and express our faith, we may be able to lead people back and close to God and to discover a life filled with peace and love with God and with each other.
Thus, even if our situation is far from those who are victims of wars and conflicts, at least in our own sphere of influence we shall also do our part to become an instrument of peace and people who lead others to the Lord.
Meaning, you as parents, you are in the best position to lead your children to God. You are there to prepare the way of the Lord in the hearts of your children. Teachers, educators and persons who are in authority, you too are in the position to influence your students, mentees and subjects to discover God in your authority. As friends or co-workers, we too are in the position to let those people around us to realize that God is in us. Through us, people around us may discover and be led closer to the Lord.
This, indeed, will be our best way of expressing our devotion to Mary and gratitude to God for He is gracious to us. Hinaut pa. Viva Maria! Viva Hesus!
Jom Baring, CSsR