- The Abbey of the Genesee - http://www.geneseeabbey.org -

June 24, 2017

Fr. Jerome Machar, OCSO

11th Saturday in Ordinary Time
Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
Isaiah 49: 1-6; Acts 13: 22-26; Luke 1: 57-66, 80

With all the members of the Body of Christ, we participate in the never-ending story of Salvation. As we conclude the Paschal Cycle, we are set on the path to encounter anew the promised Messiah who is “the same yesterday, and today, and for ages to come” (Heb. 13:8). Today, the great Author of redemption intones the proclamation of the Good News by bringing to birth the “voice of one crying in the wilderness” (Jn. 1:23). We rejoice and are glad on this day that the Lord has made. Gathered around this Table of Remembrance we celebrate the loving mercy of God. For today a child is born to us. Today, a son is given to a woman whose womb was barren. Today a voice is given to a man whose tongue was silenced by doubt. This child shall be known as the forerunner of the Lord and his name is JOHN. (Cf. Is. 9:6).

Today, the people who walked in darkness have seen the dawning of a new day (CF. Is. 9:2). Today, the people who lived in confusion and chaos have witnessed the birth of the clarion voice that will cry out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Is.40:3). The proclamation of the Good News brings joy with it. May the true Light shine in our hearts and make each of us wise and guide our steps into newness of life with Christ. The Good News is life giving. It is also life demanding. Those who would have the joy of the harvest must be willing to work the fields. Those who would take possession of the spoils, must be willing to engage in the conflict and contend with their enemies. It takes effort to fill in valleys and to cut a path through hills and mountains. It takes effort to make a crooked path straight and rough roads smooth (CF. Is. 40:4). To think, it all begins today with the birth of the forerunner!

The child is born and Elizabeth and Zechariah’s neighbors, friends and relations gathered to celebrate God’s blessings to this elderly couple. Their desire was fulfilled and everyone praised God with them. In their old and feeble arms, they held the promise of future blessings. Their consolation brought joy to all who heard of John’s birth. This child is clearly a pivotal figure in the unfolding of the history of salvation. With his birth, we see the in breaking of the Kingdom of God and the first fruits of the messianic age. The child is born and Elizabeth rejoices at being able to bring forth and nurture new life in a society that had grown old and stagnant. The child is born and Zechariah praises God for His fidelity. With him, we are invited to raise our voices in praise of God who called us out of darkness and confusion into newness of life.

Today, we share in the joy of Zechariah and Elizabeth’s friends and relatives in celebrating the birth of the infant who would grow up to prepare the way for the Lord. The house that had long been silent now echoes with the cries of the newborn son. Elizabeth’s firstborn is given the name John, a name that means “God is Gracious”. God is gracious in sending the forerunner to prepare to way for Christ to announce the Good News. God is gracious in restoring Zechariah’s speech when his son, the voice in the wilderness is born. While unbelief sealed his mouth, it was the grace of God that opened it again. The one who believes speaks what God puts in his heart. When God opens our lips, our mouths must proclaim how gracious God has been to us.

God is gracious in offering us hope. Despite the mindless killings and acts of terrorism reported in the banner headlines of our daily news, God is gracious and His grace is everlasting. The birth of Elizabeth and Zechariah’s little boy opens the eyes and ears of the world to the possibility of new life. The birth of this long-desired child is a sign of God’s fidelity to His covenant. We are graced by the gracious God to work in accordance with the divine plan for the world.