First Reading: From the Book of Isaiah 49:1-6
Vrs1 Coasts and islands, listen to me, pay attention, distant peoples. Yahweh called me when I was in the womb, before my birth he had pronounced my name.
Vrs2 He made my mouth like a sharp sword, he hid me in the shadow of his hand. He made me into a sharpened arrow and concealed me in his quiver.
Vrs3 He said to me, ‘Israel, you are my servant, through whom I shall manifest my glory.’
Vrs4 But I said, ‘My toil has been futile, I have exhausted myself for nothing, to no purpose.’ Yet all the while my cause was with Yahweh and my reward with my God.
Vrs5 And now Yahweh has spoken, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him and to re-unite Israel to him;-I shall be honoured in Yahweh’s eyes, and my God has been my strength.-
Vrs6 He said, ‘It is not enough for you to be my servant, to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel; I shall make you a light to the nations so that my salvation may reach the remotest parts of earth.’
Responsorial Psalm: From Psalms 139:1-3, 13-14, 14-15
Vrs1 [For the choirmaster Of David Psalm] Yahweh, you examine me and know me,
Vrs2 you know when I sit, when I rise, you understand my thoughts from afar.
Vrs3 You watch when I walk or lie down, you know every detail of my conduct.
Vrs13 You created my inmost self, knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Vrs14 For so many marvels I thank you; a wonder am I, and all your works are wonders. You knew me through and through,
Vrs15 my being held no secrets from you, when I was being formed in secret, textured in the depths of the earth.
Gospel Reading: From the Gospel Account of Saint Luke 1:57-66, 80
Vrs57 The time came for Elizabeth to have her child, and she gave birth to a son;
Vrs58 and when her neighbours and relations heard that the Lord had lavished on her his faithful love, they shared her joy.
Vrs59 Now it happened that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; they were going to call him Zechariah after his father,
Vrs60 but his mother spoke up. ‘No,’ she said, ‘he is to be called John.’
Vrs61 They said to her, ‘But no one in your family has that name,’
Vrs62 and made signs to his father to find out what he wanted him called.
Vrs63 The father asked for a writing-tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ And they were all astonished.
Vrs64 At that instant his power of speech returned and he spoke and praised God.
Vrs65 All their neighbours were filled with awe and the whole affair was talked about throughout the hill country of Judaea.
Vrs66 All those who heard of it treasured it in their hearts. ‘What will this child turn out to be?’ they wondered. And indeed the hand of the Lord was with him.
Vrs80 Meanwhile the child grew up and his spirit grew strong. And he lived in the desert until the day he appeared openly to Israel.
Second Reading: From the Acts of Apostles 13:22-26
Vrs22 he deposed him and raised up David to be king, whom he attested in these words, “I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, who will perform my entire will.”
Vrs23 To keep his promise, God has raised up for Israel one of David’s descendants, Jesus, as Saviour,
Vrs24 whose coming was heralded by John when he proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the whole people of Israel.
Vrs25 Before John ended his course he said, “I am not the one you imagine me to be; there is someone coming after me whose sandal I am not fit to undo.”
Vrs26 ‘My brothers, sons of Abraham’s race, and all you godfearers, this message of salvation is meant for you.
Theme: The hand of the Lord was with him
Birthdays are a special time to remember and give thanks for the blessings that have come our way. Are you grateful for the ways that God has worked in your life, even from your birth? In many churches of the East and West the birth of John the Baptist is remembered on this day. The friends of Zechariah and Elizabeth marveled at the wonderful way in which God blessed them with a child. This child was destined by God for an important mission. The last verses in the last book of the Old Testament, taken from the prophet Malachi, speak of the Lord’s messenger, the prophet Elijah who will return to “turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:6).
Birth and mission of John the Baptist
We see the beginning of the fulfillment of this word when the Angel Gabriel announced to Zechariah the marvelous birth and mission of John the Baptist (Luke 1:17). When this newly born child was about to be named, as customary on the eighth day, his relatives quibbled over what name to give him. (Don’t relatives today often do the same when the time comes for naming a newborn?) This child, however has been named from above! And Elizabeth is firm in her faith and determined to see that God be glorified through this child. The name John means “the Lord is gracious”. In the birth of John and in the birth of Jesus the Messiah we see the grace of God breaking forth into a world broken by sin and without hope. John’s miraculous birth shows the mercy and favor of God in preparing his people for the coming of its Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
John the Baptist’s life was fueled by one burning passion – to point others to Jesus Christ and to the coming of God’s kingdom. Scripture tells us that John was filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15, 41) by Christ himself, whom Mary had just conceived by the Holy Spirit. When Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, John lept in the womb of Elizabeth as they were filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41). The fire of the Spirit dwelt in John and made him the forerunner of the coming Messiah. John was led by the Spirit into the wilderness prior to his ministry where he was tested and grew in the word of God. John’s clothing was reminiscent of the prophet Elijah (see Kings 1:8).
John broke the prophetic silence of the previous centuries when he began to speak the word of God to the people of Israel. His message was similar to the message of the Old Testament prophets who chided the people of God for their unfaithfulness and who tried to awaken true repentance in them. Among a people unconcerned with the things of God, it was his work to awaken their interest, unsettle them from their complacency, and arouse in them enough good will to recognize and receive Christ when he came.
God’s gracious gift to us
What is the significance of John the Baptist and his message for our lives? When God acts to save us he graciously fills us with his Holy Spirit and makes our faith come “alive” to his promises. Each and every day the Lord is ready to renew us in faith, hope, and love. Like John the Baptist, the Lord invites each of us to make our life a free-will offering to God. God wants to fill us with his glory all the days of our lives, from birth through death. Renew the offering of your life to God and give him thanks for his mercy and favor towards you.
“Lord Jesus, you bring hope and salvation to a world lost in sin, despair, and suffering. Let your grace refresh and restore your people today in the hope and joy of your great victory over sin and death.”