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Nativity of St. John the Baptist - A courageous witness of the light

Today’s Gospel presents the birth of John the Baptist. In the event of a birth, every believer wonders what God has planned for this event and what dreams he raises on each creature. 
Luke was a believer; he wrote fifty years after the events and recalled John’s birth and interprets it as an act of “mercy” of the Lord on Elizabeth. The term “mercy” in the Bible indicates Yahweh’s attention, his tender love for anyone who needs his help.
In the barren womb of Elizabeth the evangelist sees the sterility of Israel and the condition of death in which the whole humanity lies. The desperate situation from which, without the intervention from above, it is not possible for life to sprout. 
The central part of the reading develops the theme of the child’s name, “on the eighth day they came to attend the circumcision of the child; they wanted to name him Zechariah, after his father.” 
The fact that the relatives and neighbours want to name the baby with the name of his father, Zechariah, is also surprising. The tradition was to give the name of the grandfather, not of the father’s. It seems that Luke, more than reporting a fact—in itself rather marginal—is interested to note that, the name “Zechariah” is not suitable for John. 
We begin to grasp why the evangelist combines the naming and the circumcision. Circumcision is the sign of belonging to the people of the covenant. With this rite, one belongs to Israel and becomes an heir of the promises that God made to Abraham and his descendants. On the eighth day, therefore, the Baptist becomes an Israelite, like his father. 
“Zechariah” means “God has remembered” or “God remembers” his promises. It is the symbol of Israel, which over the centuries has continued to transmit from father to son “the memory” of the prophecies, without ever seeing the fulfillment. 
Now the reason why the Baptist cannot be called “Zachariah” becomes clear. John marks the beginning of the new era. Gone are the days of remembering the promises; for humanity the new day in which the prophecies are fulfilled has dawned. “John” means, “The Lord has given grace, has manifested his goodness, his kindness.” 
Zechariah becomes mute in the temple. Now, when he speaks he utters words of blessing; he sings the wonders that he has witnessed: “The Lord has come and redeemed his people… as he promised through his prophets of old” (Luke 1:68-70).
Zechariah represents Israel that, after so many past centuries of “remembering”, is now witness to the faithfulness of God. He sees “from on high as a rising sun, shining on those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, and guiding our feet into the way of peace.” Now he recognises its benefits and proclaims to all peoples the wonders of his love. 
● Father Fernando Armellini CMF
Claretian Publications
Translated by Father John Ladesma SDB
Abridged by Father Jijo Kandamkulathy CMF