When Alexa was still a baby, we would often wonder how she will be when she’ll be going to school. As a child she was very inquisitive, was into a lot of things, and had that eyes full of wonder and awe about what’s around her. As work would require me to be out of home for long periods, Alma and myself have decided to adapt to the concept of school, from the traditional four-walled classroom into the spherical world and beyond. Our daughter’s curiosity and frequent questions would often set me thinking what will she be like in the future?
In the verses before the Gospel reading this Sunday, the birth of John the Baptist has been announced by the Archangel Gabriel to Zechariah, who was performing his duties as priest in the Temple of Jerusalem. At this time, Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, are an old couple who have never had children. Then, six months into Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the Archangel Gabriel announced the birth of Jesus to Mary in her home in Nazareth. Mary, while being engaged to Joseph, have not yet come to live together.
When the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, her neighbors and relatives rejoiced with her because God has shown her mercy in the birth of a son. When the time came for the child to be given a name, they became confused when she tells them that his name is to be John, which means “God has been gracious.” Zechariah became mute since the time Gabriel appeared, because, unlike Mary, he doubted the angel’s word. The people are now all amazed but fearful at the same time. In the reading, everyone who heard these things took them to heart saying, “What, then, will this child be?” Taking them to heart means, “meditating in your heart”, unlike when thought is being processed in your mind. When you do that, you are bringing the process of thought, prayer, and applied consideration into your heart.
But this question has already been answered by the angel. “He will be great in the sight of the Lord. He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.” (v.15, 16) Today, the importance of St. John the Baptist is such because 1) His message is calling for repentance as the precursor of Jesus Christ, the Savior, 2) He is the prophet considered as the bridge between the Old and the New Testament, and 3) He is the voice of one calling in the desert. Indeed, his importance is of such magnitude that in the Catholic Church, there are only three personalities with their birthdays celebrated in the Liturgical Calendar namely, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and St. John the Baptist. (All other feast days of saints refer to the time they died.)
In perspective, do we really know what a prophet is? When people are asked, “What is a prophet?”, most will likely say “he is a person who can predict or tell what will happen in the future”. But that is not what God calls a person to be a prophet for, rather, a prophet is one who “speaks in behalf of God.”
At times in our life we are asked to speak up to our families, friends, or community about what should be the appropriate response. However, it will take more than courage to be a prophet. People demand credibility and good example before one is taken seriously. This is one that requires spiritual maturity and mental toughness. While one can be hesitant, it is a call from God that one can’t resist. It can’t just be a call by another spirit, it has to be the Spirit of God. Many prophets though try to evade the call but you can’t say ‘no’ to God. Even if you feel unworthy of the task, God will equip you for the mission at hand. Take the example of Moses, Jonah, and many others. Even some of the disciples felt unworthy but God can’t be denied.
On this Solemnity of the Birth of St. John the Baptist, let us reflect on his life which he offered unselfishly to God. Will the answer to the question asked by your parents on the day of your birth, “What, then, will this child be?”, be one that they can be proud of? May we draw inspiration to become bold and brave in proclaiming God’s message to His people.
“Since my mother’s womb, you have been my strength.” (Ps. 71: 6)