Image: Summer flowers in the Richardson mountains
Today we celebrate the birthday of Saint John the Baptist one of the only saints, aside from Mary, the mother of Jesus, to have more than one feast day attached to his name. John was the cousin of Jesus and was already actively promoting the arrival of the messiah at the beginning of Jesus ministry. He lived in the wilderness and preached about conversion and a baptism of repentance. Like Jesus, John’s conception and birth was quite out of the ordinary and we hear a little about that in our gospel reading today.
Have you ever stopped to think about the countless lives before yours that led directly to your own? How many young couples have fallen in love, raised families, experienced life, came and went in order that you might be here reading this today? It could be all seen as a random luck of the draw or we could see God’s hand at work in that all this has taken place so that you could have your time in the sun to do God’s will and be a part of God’s plan.
Our readings today appear to give a retrospective, a brief look back, at some of the important figures that paved the way for the coming of Christ. It is an important reminder of how all things are connected by God’s plan of salvation.
The first reading, from the prophet Isaiah, speaks of Isaiah’s call to be a prophet and about what he was meant to say to the people. At the time Isaiah’s main job was to keep giving words of hope to the people of Israel who did not have much at the time to be hopeful about. The Lord gave Isaiah the task of being, “a light to the nations”, a beacon around which the people could find rest and comfort as they waited for better days.
In the second reading St. Paul is looking back at better days gone by as he reflects upon the kingdom of David. David was an ordinary man who God raised to the stature of a king. David ushered the people into a time of prosperity and was known for his wise stewardship. But David also had many human failings that would have been his undoing, were it not for his humility and faith in God’s mercy.
Then the Gospel brings us to the birth of John to the elderly couple Elizabeth and Zechariah. They were both well into their senior years and without children when an angel appeared to them and announced that Elizabeth would give birth. Zechariah was struck dumb because he doubted and it is only now, as John is being presented in the temple, that Zechariah regains his speech as he announces the name of his son and all the people were amazed.
What all three of these figures have in common is their place in the long line of those who kept alive the promise of the coming of Jesus. Each had their role to play. Over many generations their actions kept the spirit of those who heard the stories anchored, as they clung to that hope and believed what God was doing in the world until at last Jesus came.
Now it is our turn. We who know Jesus and who have seen the promise fulfilled are now called to be the witnesses of God’s love for the world and to share it with our generation as it has been shared with us. We are called to be the faithful ones, the hope bearers for those who still find themselves in darkness. We have seen the light and now the light is ours to carry.
Isaiah was a prophet, David was a king, John preached in the wilderness where he lived a life of poverty and seclusion, but we do not have to retreat to the desert or to put on animal robes to do our part. God wants us as we are, there is a place for each one of us in his plan. Turn to the Lord to find what it is that God is asking of you.