Posts Tagged ‘I praise you for I am wonderfully made’

Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, June 24, 2018 — “The LORD called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.”

June 23, 2018

He made of me a sharp-edged sword — He made me a polished arrow

For surely the hand of the Lord was with him

God wants us all to reflect the mysteries of God and to point to God by everything in our lives.

Image may contain: one or more people

John the Baptist, wood carving

Elizabeth and Zechariah named him, “John” which in Hebrew means, “God is gracious.”

Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist – Mass during the Day
Lectionary: 587

Reading 1 IS 49:1-6

Hear me, O coastlands,
listen, O distant peoples.
The LORD called me from birth,
from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.
He made of me a sharp-edged sword
and concealed me in the shadow of his arm.
He made me a polished arrow,
in his quiver he hid me.
You are my servant, he said to me,
Israel, through whom I show my glory.Though I thought I had toiled in vain,
and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength,
yet my reward is with the LORD,
my recompense is with my God.
For now the LORD has spoken
who formed me as his servant from the womb,
that Jacob may be brought back to him
and Israel gathered to him;
and I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD,
and my God is now my strength!
It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant,
to raise up the tribes of Jacob,
and restore the survivors of Israel;
I will make you a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 139:1B-3, 13-14AB, 14C-15

R. (14) I praise you, for I am wonderfully made.
O LORD, you have probed me, you know me:
you know when I sit and when I stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.
My journeys and my rest you scrutinize,
with all my ways you are familiar.
R. I praise you for I am wonderfully made.
Truly you have formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother’s womb.
I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made;
wonderful are your works.
R. I praise you, for I am wonderfully made.
My soul also you knew full well;
nor was my frame unknown to you
When I was made in secret,
when I was fashioned in the depths of the earth.
R. I praise you, for I am wonderfully made.

Reading 2  ACTS 13:22-26

In those days, Paul said:
“God raised up David as king;
of him God testified,
I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart;
he will carry out my every wish.

From this man’s descendants God, according to his promise,
has brought to Israel a savior, Jesus.
John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance
to all the people of Israel;
and as John was completing his course, he would say,
‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he.
Behold, one is coming after me;
I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.’

“My brothers, sons of the family of Abraham,
and those others among you who are God-fearing,
to us this word of salvation has been sent.”

Alleluia  SEE LK 1:76

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
You, child, will be called prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  LK 1:57-66, 80

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child
she gave birth to a son.
Her neighbors and relatives heard
that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her,
and they rejoiced with her.
When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child,
they were going to call him Zechariah after his father,
but his mother said in reply,
“No. He will be called John.”
But they answered her,
“There is no one among your relatives who has this name.”
So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.
He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,”
and all were amazed.
Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed,
and he spoke blessing God.
Then fear came upon all their neighbors,
and all these matters were discussed
throughout the hill country of Judea.
All who heard these things took them to heart, saying,
“What, then, will this child be?”
For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.
The child grew and became strong in spirit,
and he was in the desert until the day
of his manifestation to Israel.
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Reflection From The Monastery of Christ in the Desert
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My sisters and brothers in Jesus Christ,

Instead of the regular Sunday Mass, today we have the Birth of Saint John the Baptist.  John the Baptist has a huge role in the life of Jesus and prepares others to know of the coming of salvation and of Jesus.  John the Baptist was recognized as a strong religious presence before Jesus was recognized—and John always points to Jesus.  In the same way, you and I must learn always to point to Jesus by the way we live our lives and in our speaking, writing and thinking.

The first reading today is from the Prophet Isaiah.  Isaiah tells us of his own awareness that God had called him to be a servant of God’s presence in all that he does.  Isaiah realized that God had created him to testify to God’s presence and to proclaim God’s presence in his life.  This reading reflects an awareness that many of the prophets had that God wants us all to reflect the mysteries of God and to point to God by everything in our lives.

You and I are invited today to know that God is also calling us in the same way, with the same intensity.  God loves us.  God wants us.  God wants us to proclaim His presence and His works to everyone.  Most of us don’t do that in our lives, but our not doing it does not change God’s wanting it.

The second reading is from the Acts of the Apostles.  It reflects another human trait:  when we someone good, we tend to think of them not only as set apart, but better than ourselves.  The challenge is that God wants us all to be saints.  The word “saint” makes us think of someone better than ourselves.  God wants us all to be saints, not to look better than others, but to reflect His goodness and love to all.  It is always the challenge of doing only what God wants.  This is the challenge of spiritual combat and we are all invited to such spiritual combat.

Saint John the Baptist took up the challenge of doing God’s will and tried to do God’s will with all his being.  John the Baptist took up the spiritual combat of not doing his will but God’s will.

The Gospel today, from Saint Luke, tells the things that happened before the birth of John the Baptist.  The neighbors all knew that there was something special about this child.  We can all claim that there was nothing special about our birth, but it is not so.  The birth of new life, of a new child, is always special—but we don’t pay attention to that aspect.  Today as there are fewer and fewer births in the western world, we begin to see how special each one is.  Only as we begin to pay attention to God do we begin to understand how special each human being is and how each human being can draw others to God and to the mysteries of faith.

May we come to know how special each life is, our own included, and how each of us can point to the Lord Jesus and draw others to Him.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Prayer and Meditation for Friday, June 24, 2017 — “From my mother’s womb he gave me my name.” — “I praise you, for I am wonderfully made.”

June 23, 2017

Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
Mass during the Day
Lectionary: 587

Image may contain: 1 person, standing

St. John the Baptist (detail), painted wood, 1438, Donatello (Donato di Niccolo di Betto Bardi) , c. 1386-1466. The scroll reads “Ecce Agnus dei” (Behold the Lamb of God) — in the church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari in Venice

Reading 1  IS 49:1-6

Hear me, O coastlands,
listen, O distant peoples.
The LORD called me from birth,
from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.
He made of me a sharp-edged sword
and concealed me in the shadow of his arm.
He made me a polished arrow,
in his quiver he hid me.
You are my servant, he said to me,
Israel, through whom I show my glory.

Though I thought I had toiled in vain,
and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength,
yet my reward is with the LORD,
my recompense is with my God.
For now the LORD has spoken
who formed me as his servant from the womb,
that Jacob may be brought back to him
and Israel gathered to him;
and I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD,
and my God is now my strength!
It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant,
to raise up the tribes of Jacob,
and restore the survivors of Israel;
I will make you a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 139:1B-3, 13-14AB, 14C-15

R. (14) I praise you, for I am wonderfully made.
O LORD, you have probed me, you know me:
you know when I sit and when I stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.
My journeys and my rest you scrutinize,
with all my ways you are familiar.
R. I praise you, for I am wonderfully made.
Truly you have formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother’s womb.
I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made;
wonderful are your works.
R. I praise you, for I am wonderfully made.
My soul also you knew full well;
nor was my frame unknown to you
When I was made in secret,
when I was fashioned in the depths of the earth.
R. I praise you, for I am wonderfully made.

Reading 2 ACTS 13:22-26

In those days, Paul said:
“God raised up David as king;
of him God testified,
I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart;
he will carry out my every wish.

From this man’s descendants God, according to his promise,
has brought to Israel a savior, Jesus.
John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance
to all the people of Israel;
and as John was completing his course, he would say,
‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he.
Behold, one is coming after me;
I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.’

“My brothers, sons of the family of Abraham,
and those others among you who are God-fearing,
to us this word of salvation has been sent.”

Alleluia SEE LK 1:76

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
You, child, will be called prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

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Image may contain: 1 person

Gospel  LK 1:57-66, 80

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child
she gave birth to a son.
Her neighbors and relatives heard
that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her,
and they rejoiced with her.
When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child,
they were going to call him Zechariah after his father,
but his mother said in reply,
“No. He will be called John.”
But they answered her,
“There is no one among your relatives who has this name.”
So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.
He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,”
and all were amazed.
Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed,
and he spoke blessing God.
Then fear came upon all their neighbors,
and all these matters were discussed
throughout the hill country of Judea.
All who heard these things took them to heart, saying,
“What, then, will this child be?”
For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.
The child grew and became strong in spirit,
and he was in the desert until the day
of his manifestation to Israel.

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

24 JUNE, 2017, Saturday, The Birthday of St John the Baptist

THE GIFT OF GOD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Is 49:1-6; Ps 138:1-3,13-15; Acts 13:22-26; Luke 1:57-66.80 ]

We are always happy at the birth of a new baby.  The sight of a baby gives us so much joy and delight.  More so for the proud parents.  This was certainly the case of Zechariah and Elizabeth who gave birth at an old age.  The people were also delighted. “When her neighbours and relations heard that the Lord had shown her so great a kindness, they shared her joy.”   And they wondered, “What will this child turn out to be?”

But what is the reason for our joy when a child is born?  Do we see the child as an investment for our old age?  In Singapore, we have our Central Provident Fund and savings.  In many cases, parents do not need the financial support of their children.  In fact, many parents in their old age are still supporting their grown-up children!  Then what is the cause of their joy?  Is it because the child will take away their loneliness?  That might be so, but parents will come to realize that their children cannot take away their loneliness.  If we depend on our children for emotional and affective support, we might be greatly disappointed.  Many children these days are first and foremost self-centered.  They are more worried about their own security than that of their parents!  Secondly, they are too busy with their friends, studies and career to make time for their parents.  Thirdly, many take their parents’ love for granted. They believe they have a right to receive everything from their parents; love, understanding, support, money, etc. It is the duty of their parents to love them and ensure that they are well.  So they do not feel obligated to give back to their parents.

A more noble reason for the joy of bringing a child into the world would be to realize that the child is a product of your love for your spouse.  To know that the child is the fruit of the love between the husband and wife unites the couple even more intensely.  The child is not a thing to use or a toy to play with, but for us to celebrate the couple’s love for each other.  Since the child is the fruit of the love between the husband and wife, they are called to pour their love to the child from the love they receive from each other.

The right reason for wanting to have a child is not just to share your love or that it is a product of your love, but that the love you have between husband and wife could be extended to the whole world.  In other words, the noble motive for bringing a child into this world must be because we want to make a difference in the world through the child.  A baby or a child is not for the parents to possess and hoard.  The child is a gift from God given to the parents so that they can offer their child for the greater good of the Church, for society and humanity.   The child is called to be a joy and life-giver.  He has a mission and vocation in the world.   He is given for the service of God and humanity.  In other words, the child is a gift of God, first and foremost to the parents, but always for the greater good of humanity.  Through the child’s service, the world would be a better place.

That a child is a gift of God is underscored in today’s scripture readings.  In the gospel, Zechariah made it clear that his son would be called John, which means literally, the gift of God.  Truly, he was a gift of God to the parents in their old age.  Zechariah did not name the child after his family because the child belonged to God, not to him or Elizabeth.  In the mind of Zechariah, the child must be consecrated to God for His service.  John the Baptist was not just a gift to the parents, but for God and His people as well.   John the Baptist was a gift for Jesus to be His precursor and forerunner.  This was to enable Jesus the Messiah to complete His work.  This was what St Paul wrote, “To keep his promise, God has raised up for Israel one of David’s descendants, Jesus, as Saviour, whose coming was heralded by John when he proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the whole people of Israel.”  This was the understanding of Zechariah, for in the Benedictus, he prayed, “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins.  By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Lk 1:76-79)

Today, parents must learn to let go of their children when they grow up.  This was what Mary, Zechariah and Elizabeth did.  They were ready to allow their children to be given to God for the service of humanity.   Our task as parents is to help our children to discover their calling in life.  All have a common calling.  They must answer to their one calling in life.  Some of us might be called to be priests and religious as precursors of our Lord, like John the Baptist.  Others could be called to be like Paul, a great missionary and apostle of Christ. The Lord said, “he who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, to gather Israel to him: It is not enough for you to be my servant, to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel; I will make you the light of the nations so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”  Others are just called to be prophets wherever they are, at home, in school, in office or at Church.  We are all called differently, but for the same purpose, to bring life, hope, love to humanity.  As the psalmist says, “O Lord, you search me and you know me, you know my resting and my rising, you discern my purpose from afar.  You mark when I walk or lie down, all my ways lie open to you.”   Isaiah says, “The Lord called me before I was born, from my mother’s womb he pronounced my name.”

For that reason, we should not compare ourselves or our children with others.  They are just different.  They have different calling and interests.  Accordingly, they are blessed with different gifts.  Our calling as parents is to help them develop their special gifts given to them by the Lord so that in excelling in what they do best, they will become the person they are meant to be.  In their uniqueness and in their inimitable ways, they will make a difference in the lives of others.  By so doing, they find themselves.  St Luke wrote, “Before John ended his career he said, ‘I am not the one you imagine me to be; that one is coming after me and I am not fit to undo his sandal.’”   We are all gifted differently.  It is not by our choice but determined by the Lord.  When God chooses us, He will qualify us.  Isaiah said, “He made my mouth a sharp sword, and hid me in the shadow of his hand. He made me into a sharpened arrow, and concealed me in his quiver.”

Whatever our work is, we are all called to be suffering servants for the Lord.  Christ Himself is the fulfillment of the suffering servant of Isaiah, which we read in the first reading.  We are to give our lives completely for the service of our people.  This would entail suffering and sacrifices like the Suffering Servant.  But let us not get discouraged because God will be glorified through our sufferings.  He will be with us for He told the Suffering Servant, “You are my servant (Israel) in whom I shall be glorified; while I was thinking, I have toiled in vain, I have exhausted myself for nothing; and all the while my cause was with the Lord, my reward with my God. I was honoured in the eyes of the Lord, my God was my strength.”

So let us thank God for the wonder of our being.  Instead of comparing and competing with each other, we are called to complete each other so that we can accomplish our common mission to bring God’s love, joy and hope to the world.  Like the psalmist, we pray, “For it was you who created my being, knit me together in my mother’s womb. I thank you for the wonder of my being, for the wonders of all your creation.  Already you knew my soul, my body held no secret from you when I was being fashioned in secret and moulded in the depths of the earth.”

Those who live for themselves cannot find real happiness and fulfillment in life.  They live without purpose. They live the life of an animal, and only for a limited time on earth.  But those who live for others, live for joy and love, and they live into eternity.   But if we desire to become a gift of God to Him and His people we must first receive the gift of God Himself.   To live for God, like John the Baptist, we must receive Him in contemplation and prayer so that we can be effective instruments of God. This was what we read, “And indeed the hand of the Lord was with him. The child grew up and his spirit matured. And he lived out in the wilderness until the day he appeared openly to Israel.”

 

Written by The Most Rev William Goh; Archbishop of Singapore
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Commentary on Isaiah 49:1-6; Acts 13:22-26; Luke 1:57-66,80 from Living Space

John came to bear witness to the light, to prepare an upright people for the Lord.

JOHN THE BAPTIST played a unique role in the history of God’s people. He acted as the bridge between the Hebrew and Christian Testaments. He basically belongs to the former but was present at the beginnings of the latter. At the same time he died before Jesus had completed his work and before the Church came into existence.

Jesus praised his greatness but at the same time said that even the least in the Kingdom was greater than he. While he knew and proclaimed Jesus as the one that all were waiting for and the thongs of whose sandals he was not worthy to loose, he never saw Jesus as his Risen Lord, a privileged granted to the very least of the baptised.

His primary title is Precursor. His mission was to go ahead of the Messiah and proclaim his coming. As he said modestly himself, Jesus must increase while he himself must decrease. The success of his mission would eventually make him redundant. And that is still the role of the missionary today – to plant the church and then withdraw, leaving it in the hands of the new local community.

 Many parallels

Today we celebrate the birth of John the Baptist. In Luke’s gospel there are many parallels between the birth of John and that of Jesus. Both births were announced in advance: in John’s case to his father Zechariah and in Jesus’ case to his mother Mary.

The birth of John was a special blessing to his parents, who were already advanced in age, and particularly to Elizabeth. So when the birth took place it was a special occasion of rejoicing among relatives and neighbours. When they heard “that the Lord had shown her so great a kindness, they shared her joy”. Everyone knew what a shame it was for a woman not to give a child, especially a son, to her husband.

In accordance with custom the child was circumcised on the eighth day after birth. This ritual showed that the child belonged to God’s own people. It was also the day on which the child was officially named. In accordance with prevailing custom, it was expected that the child would be called Zechariah after his father. But Elizabeth interjected to say that he should be called John. This came as a surprise as there was no one of that name in the family.

The father was then consulted. Because he had doubted the angel’s words at the announcement of his son’s conception, Zechariah had been struck dumb. He was possibly also deaf because the people communicated to him by signs. He replied by writing on a tablet: “His name is John.” This was the name the angel said should be given to the new-born child. This act of obedience on the part of Zechariah resulted in his speech coming back and his glorifying God. “The neighbours were filled with awe and the whole affair was talked about throughout the hill country of Judea.” The whole event was clearly understood as a direct intervention of God.

And people began to wonder about the child in front of them. “What will the child turn out to be?” they asked. All the circumstances of his birth indicated that he was no ordinary child and that God had a special mission for him.

 In the desert

In words similar to those used of Jesus, we are told that the boy grew up and matured. Probably his elderly parents died while he was young and he went to live in the Desert of Judea, which lies between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. And it was there, along the banks of the River Jordan that he began his public preaching. He would have been about 30 years of age, the same age as his cousin, Jesus.

His calling to serve the Lord is expressed in the passage from Isaiah in the First Reading. “The Lord called me before I was born, from my mother’s womb he pronounced my name.” His unexpected birth was revealed to his father and his name given to him.

“He made my mouth a sharp sword… he made me into a sharpened arrow…” express John’s effectiveness as a prophet and herald. The reading also implies the suffering and frustrations that were part of John’s life. In the end he was thrown into prison and, on the whim of Herod’s illegitimate wife, executed. But his life was not in vain. He became, in the words of the reading, “the light of the nations so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth”.

John was the last and in some ways the greatest of the Hebrew Testament prophets. As the preface for today’s Mass says he was chosen “from all the prophets to show the world its redeemer, the Lamb of sacrifice”. It was he, who in John’s gospel, points out Jesus to his disciples as the “Lamb of God”.

Apart from preaching a message of repentance and conversion to the large number of people who came to hear him, he “baptised Christ, the giver of baptism, in waters made holy by the one who was baptised”.

He is presented as a man of total honesty and integrity. Perhaps it was this which attracted so many to come and hear him. And because of this he ultimately lost his life when he denounced King Herod who had married his brother’s wife. He was “found worthy of a martyr’s death, his last and greatest act of witness to your Son”.

A model for all of us

John the Baptist’s life has a special meaning for all of us. We are, through our baptism, also called to be precursors of the Lord. Our baptism imposes on us an obligation to share our faith and to give witness to the Way of Jesus, both in word and action. There is no other way by which the average person can come to know and experience the love of Christ.

It is well put by Paul, writing to the church at Rome a long time ago: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!’” (Romans 10:13-16)

In that sense, we are all called to be “preachers”. Our lives individually and collectively are meant to send out a message and an invitation: “Come and join us and share our experience of faith, love and fellowship.” If we are honest, we know that we do not do that nearly enough and often give an opposite message altogether. As the unbeliever Nietzsche said, “If they want me to be Christian they will have to look as if they are saved.” The signals we send out as individuals, as families, as parish are really the only way that people who are searching for meaning in their lives may be led to find that meaning in the Gospel.

Let us ask John the Baptist today to help us by the way we live our lives to clear a path which will draw people closer to knowing and experiencing Christ.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o1122g/

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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 KeytotheReadingThis passage of the Gospel formspartoftheso called accounts of the infancy of Jesus. In a particular way this text follows the scene of the Visitation of Mary “in the house of Zechariah” (Lk 1, 40) after the event of the Annunciation of the Angel, the messenger of the new creation.In fact, the Annunciation inaugurates in a joyful way the fulfilment of God’s promise to His People (Lk 1, 26-38). The joy of the new times, which filled Mary, now inundates the heart of Elizabeth. She rejoices with the announcement brought by Mary (Lk 1, 41). Mary, on the other hand, “magnifies the Lord” (Lk 1, 46) because He has worked great things in her, just as He has worked great marvels for His people in need of salvation.
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The expression “the time came” reminds us that this reality does not only strike Elizabeth about to give birth, but reveals also something of God’s project. In fact, Saint Paul tells us that when the completion of the time came, God sent His Only Begotten Son “born of a woman, born a subject of the Law, to redeem the subjects of the Law, so that we could receive adoption of sons” of God (Gal 4, 4).In the Gospel Jesus in fact, speaks about the completion of times, especially in the Gospel of John.
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Two of these times are the wedding at Cana (Jn 2, 1-12) and the agony on the cross where Jesus exclaims that “all is fulfilled” (Jn 19, 30). In the fulfilment of the times Jesus inaugurates an era of salvation. The birth of John the Baptist inaugurates this time of salvation. In fact, at the arrival of the Messiah he exults and leaps in the womb of his mother, Elizabeth (Lk 1, 44). Later on, he will define himself as the friend of the bridegroom (Jesus) who exults and rejoices because of the event of the wedding with the bride, the Church (Jn 3, 29).The son will not be named as his father Zechariah, but John. Zechariah reminds us that God does not forget His people. In fact, his name means “God remembers”.
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His son will now be called “God remembers”, because God’s promises were being fulfilled. The prophetic mission of John has to indicate God’s mercy. In fact, he will be calledJohanan, that is “God is mercy”. This mercy is manifested in the visit to the People, precisely “as he had promised by the mouth of his holy prophets of ancient times” (Lk 1, 67-70). Thus, the name indicates the mission of the one about to be born. Zechariah will write the name of his son on a tablet so that all could see with admiration (Lk 1, 63). This tablet is the echo of another inscription, written by Pilate to be fixed on the cross of Jesus. This inscription revealed the identity of the mission of the Crucified: “Jesus, the Nazarene, King of the Jews” (Jn 19, 19). This writing also provoked the admiration of those who were in Jerusalem for the feast.John is the precursor of Jesus in everything. Already since his birth and childhood he points out to Christ. “Who will this child be? He is “the voice which cries out in the desert” (Jn 1, 23), impelling all to prepare the way of the Lord. He is not the Messiah (Jn 1, 20), but he indicates this with his preaching and above all with his life style of asceticism in the desert. Meanwhile the child grew up and his spirit grew strong. He lived in the desert until the day he appeared openly to Israel”. (Lk 1, 80).

3.1.1. Questions to direct the meditation and the carrying out

– What has struck you in this passage and in the reflection?

– John identifies himself as the friend of the bridegroom. According to you, what is the meaning of this image?

– John the Baptist has always been seen by the Church as its type. He is the one who prepares the way for the Lord. Does this have some relevance for our daily life?

Oratio

Let us bless the Lord together with Zechariah (Lk 1, 68-79)

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
for he has visited his people, he has set them free,
and he has established for us a saving power
in the House of his servant David,
just as he proclaimed,
by the mouth of his holy prophets from ancient times,
that he would save us from our enemies
and from the hands of all those who hate us,
and show faithful love to our ancestors,
and so keep in mind his holy covenant.
This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham,
that he would grant us, free from fear,
to be delivered from the hands of our enemies,
to serve him in holiness and uprightness in his presence,
all our days.
And you, little child,
you shall be called Prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare a way for him,
to give his people knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the faithful love of our God
in which the rising Sun has come from on high to visit us,
to give light to those who live in darkness
and the shadow dark as death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Contemplatio

Let us all together adore the mercy and the goodness of God repeating in silence:
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be,
world without end. Amen

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-nativity-saint-john-baptist

 

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From Last Year:

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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24 JUNE 2016, Friday, The Nativity of John the Baptist
HELPING OUR CHILDREN TO FIND THEIR VOCATION IN LIFE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Is 49:1-6; Ps 138:1-3, 13-15; Acts 13:22-26; Lk 1:57-66, 80 ]The birth of every child brings great joy to the parents and to those who know them.  This was the case of Zechariah and Elizabeth.  “The time came for Elizabeth to have her child, and she gave birth to a son; and when her neighbours and relations heard that the Lord had shown her so great a kindness, they shared her joy.”  Indeed, we can imagine the joy of a mother and father when the child is born.  It calls for celebration and rejoicing.

But once the rejoicing is over or at the back of the mind of the parents and friends, there is the question, “what will this child turn out to be?”    This is by far the most crucial question.  The anxiety of parents begins now.  All parents are worried about the future of their children.  What will become of them?  Will they be able to be admitted to a good school?  Will they excel in their studies?  Will they be of good character?  Will they be happily married?  Will they get a good job and be successful in their career?

In order to answer this question, “what will this child turn out to be”, we need to come back to the cause of rejoicing.  Why do we rejoice when a child is born?  Why do people want to have children?  Why are some couples so desperate to have children?  In the past, children used to be an investment for old age.  Now they can be a liability rather than an investment.  Why, then, do we have children?  Is it because we need them to look after us?  Or we need someone to amuse us like a toy or a pet?   The truth is that parents experience the joy of loving, caring and giving.  It is our nature to love and be loved.  This explains why grandparents and relatives like to pamper children with gifts and love.  What greater joy can one have than to share this joy with someone who is the product of your love?

Consequently, we must also ask what we hope for our children.   Is it simply hoping that they will be healthy, do well in their studies and in their career and have a beautiful family?  If that were so, our vision for our children will be rather myopic and even self-centered.  Rather, the gospel reminds us that every child is not just a gift to his or her parents and relatives but to the nations.  In giving life and love, they receive life. Of the Suffering Servant, the Lord said, “I will make you the light of the nations so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”  For this reason, when John the Baptist was born, Elizabeth and Zechariah named him, “John” which in Hebrew means, “God is gracious.”

John simply means that he is the gift of God not just to his parents but to humanity, as we read later on in the Benedictus when Zechariah under the inspiration of the Holy Spirt sang praises to God saying, “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God, when the day shall dawn upon us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”  (Lk 1:77-79)

Indeed, we have been chosen, like the Suffering Servant, to be at the service of God even before we were born.  The prophet said, “Islands, listen to me, pay attention, remotest peoples. The Lord called me before I was born, from my mother’s womb he pronounced my name.”  We are gifts from God for others. We do not live for ourselves.  We have a mission to fulfill in life.  King David too was chosen for a role.  St Paul said: “God made David the king of our ancestors, of whom he approved in these words, ‘I have selected David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, who will carry out my whole purpose.’”  God knows us and has a plan for each of us.

Within this perspective is the question of how, as parents, we are called to form our children.  They are not our possession and property.  As parents, we have been entrusted with the children so that they can be of service to God and to humanity.  Every child is called to be light to the nations.   Every child is called to bring all men and women back to God.  “And now the Lord has spoken, he who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, to gather Israel to him: It is not enough for you to be my servant, to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel; I will make you the light of the nations so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”  This is the calling of every human person.  Every one of us is called to be the light that leads all of humanity back to God.

The work of parents is primarily the work of discernment and guidance so that their children can fulfil not the parents’ desires but to find their vocation in life.  We need to consider what are their charisms and calling in life.  Not everyone is called to be a preacher like John the Baptist.  “He made my mouth a sharp sword, and hid me in the shadow of his hand. He made me into a sharpened arrow, and concealed me in his quiver.”  Our gifts are different and so parents have the necessary task of helping their children to discern their calling and to guide them accordingly, just as John the Baptist’s parents did for him.  They did not stop John the Baptist from going into the desert, living an ascetic life and becoming a preacher of repentance. As parents, they were simply seeking to fulfill the plan of God for John the Baptist, not theirs.

As parents therefore our task is to help and equip our children to become shepherds after the heart of Christ and to be a servant leader in the world.   Like John the Baptist, we are called to prepare the way for the Lord.  Parents have a serious duty to ensure not so much that they do well, be successful and wealthy in life.  Rather, the preoccupation of parents must be to discern their vocation in life so that they can live out our common calling to be the light of the nations.  Our task is to help them to be true servants of the Lord.

The future of our children will depend on the formation we provide for them.  The kind of values they will adopt, the depth of their faith in God, the extent of their generosity towards others and their ambition in life will depend on how the parents impart these values.  Most of all, values are given not so much through words but by their very lives.  In other words, the future of our children depends on parents living out their faith. They themselves must first be shepherds after the heart of Christ before they can prepare the way of the Lord for their children to accept Christ and His love.  Parents are the first and primary educators in love, life and faith.

So the joy of having a child must be followed up by forming the child in the likeness of Christ.  The psalmist expressed, “For it was you who created my being, knit me together in my mother’s womb. I thank you for the wonder of my being, for the wonders of all your creation.”  We need to ensure that, like John the Baptist, our children not only grow in knowledge but in grace and maturity. The evangelist says of John the Baptist, “And indeed the hand of the Lord was with him. The child grew up and his spirit matured. And he lived out in the wilderness until the day he appeared openly to Israel.”

This process of formation is challenging and difficult.  Formation is one of the most difficult things in life.  Quite often we feel like giving up.  It is not easy to form children nowadays because of the exposure they have to so many philosophies of life. Although extremely challenging and trying, it is fulfilling when we see the end product of the future of our children.  Thus we need to persevere in faith, love and prayer.  This is what the Lord is assuring us in our task of bringing people to Christ.  He said to the Suffering Servant, “You are my servant (Israel) in whom I shall be glorified; while I was thinking, I have toiled in vain, I have exhausted myself for nothing; and all the while my cause was with the Lord, my reward with my God. I was honoured in the eyes of the Lord, my God was my strength.”

So in our struggles in forming our children to be God’s children, let us be patient and rely on His grace alone. Let us trust in God as Zechariah and Elizabeth did because God is gracious!  He will show us the way.  Indeed, the psalmist assures us, “O Lord, you search me and you know me, you know my resting and my rising, you discern my purpose from afar.  You mark when I walk or lie down, all my ways lie open to you. Already you knew my soul, my body held no secret from you when I was being fashioned in secret and moulded in the depths of the earth.”  At the end of the day, it is grace.  This is what John is reminding us, the Lord is gracious!

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, June 24, 2015 — Nativity of Saint John the Baptist — The Light of the Nations — We are reminded of our responsibility as parents

June 23, 2015

Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist – Mass during the Day
Lectionary: 587

St John the Baptist. St Catherine Monastery. Mt Sinai Egypt. 6th century

He went into the desert. He subsisted on wild honey and locusts. He had nothing — Except his towering faith in God. And his awe and love of Jesus.

Reading 1 IS 49:1-6

Hear me, O coastlands,
listen, O distant peoples.
The LORD called me from birth,
from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.
He made of me a sharp-edged sword
and concealed me in the shadow of his arm.
He made me a polished arrow,
in his quiver he hid me.
You are my servant, he said to me,
Israel, through whom I show my glory.Though I thought I had toiled in vain,
and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength,
yet my reward is with the LORD,
my recompense is with my God.
For now the LORD has spoken
who formed me as his servant from the womb,
that Jacob may be brought back to him
and Israel gathered to him;
and I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD,
and my God is now my strength!
It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant,
to raise up the tribes of Jacob,
and restore the survivors of Israel;
I will make you a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.

Responsorial Psalm PS 139:1B-3, 13-14AB, 14C-15

R. (14) I praise you, for I am wonderfully made.
O LORD, you have probed me, you know me:
you know when I sit and when I stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.
My journeys and my rest you scrutinize,
with all my ways you are familiar.
R. I praise you for I am wonderfully made.
Truly you have formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother’s womb.
I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made;
wonderful are your works.
R. I praise you, for I am wonderfully made.
My soul also you knew full well;
nor was my frame unknown to you
When I was made in secret,
when I was fashioned in the depths of the earth.
R. I praise you, for I am wonderfully made.

Reading 2 ACTS 13:22-26

In those days, Paul said:
“God raised up David as king;
of him God testified,
I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart;
he will carry out my every wish.

From this man’s descendants God, according to his promise,
has brought to Israel a savior, Jesus.
John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance
to all the people of Israel;
and as John was completing his course, he would say,
‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he.
Behold, one is coming after me;
I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.’“My brothers, sons of the family of Abraham,
and those others among you who are God-fearing,
to us this word of salvation has been sent.”

AlleluiaSEE LK 1:76

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
You, child, will be called prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 1:57-66, 80

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child
she gave birth to a son.
Her neighbors and relatives heard
that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her,
and they rejoiced with her.
When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child,
they were going to call him Zechariah after his father,
but his mother said in reply,
“No. He will be called John.”
But they answered her,
“There is no one among your relatives who has this name.”
So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.
He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,”
and all were amazed.
Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed,
and he spoke blessing God.
Then fear came upon all their neighbors,
and all these matters were discussed
throughout the hill country of Judea.
All who heard these things took them to heart, saying,
“What, then, will this child be?”
For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.
The child grew and became strong in spirit,
and he was in the desert until the day
of his manifestation to Israel.

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Commentary on Isaiah 49:1-6; Acts 13:22-26; Luke 1:57-66,80 from Living Space

John came to bear witness to the light, to prepare an upright people for the Lord.

JOHN THE BAPTIST played a unique role in the history of God’s people. He acted as the bridge between the Hebrew and Christian Testaments. He basically belongs to the former but was present at the beginnings of the latter. At the same time he died before Jesus had completed his work and before the Church came into existence.

Jesus praised his greatness but at the same time said that even the least in the Kingdom was greater than he. While he knew and proclaimed Jesus as the one that all were waiting for and the thongs of whose sandals he was not worthy to loose, he never saw Jesus as his Risen Lord, a privileged granted to the very least of the baptised.

His primary title is Precursor. His mission was to go ahead of the Messiah and proclaim his coming. As he said modestly himself, Jesus must increase while he himself must decrease. The success of his mission would eventually make him redundant. And that is still the role of the missionary today – to plant the church and then withdraw, leaving it in the hands of the new local community.

 Many parallels

Today we celebrate the birth of John the Baptist. In Luke’s gospel there are many parallels between the birth of John and that of Jesus. Both births were announced in advance: in John’s case to his father Zechariah and in Jesus’ case to his mother Mary.

The birth of John was a special blessing to his parents, who were already advanced in age, and particularly to Elizabeth. So when the birth took place it was a special occasion of rejoicing among relatives and neighbours. When they heard “that the Lord had shown her so great a kindness, they shared her joy”. Everyone knew what a shame it was for a woman not to give a child, especially a son, to her husband.

In accordance with custom the child was circumcised on the eighth day after birth. This ritual showed that the child belonged to God’s own people. It was also the day on which the child was officially named. In accordance with prevailing custom, it was expected that the child would be called Zechariah after his father. But Elizabeth interjected to say that he should be called John. This came as a surprise as there was no one of that name in the family.

The father was then consulted. Because he had doubted the angel’s words at the announcement of his son’s conception, Zechariah had been struck dumb. He was possibly also deaf because the people communicated to him by signs. He replied by writing on a tablet: “His name is John.” This was the name the angel said should be given to the new-born child. This act of obedience on the part of Zechariah resulted in his speech coming back and his glorifying God. “The neighbours were filled with awe and the whole affair was talked about throughout the hill country of Judea.” The whole event was clearly understood as a direct intervention of God.

And people began to wonder about the child in front of them. “What will the child turn out to be?” they asked. All the circumstances of his birth indicated that he was no ordinary child and that God had a special mission for him.

 In the desert

In words similar to those used of Jesus, we are told that the boy grew up and matured. Probably his elderly parents died while he was young and he went to live in the Desert of Judea, which lies between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. And it was there, along the banks of the River Jordan that he began his public preaching. He would have been about 30 years of age, the same age as his cousin, Jesus.

His calling to serve the Lord is expressed in the passage from Isaiah in the First Reading. “The Lord called me before I was born, from my mother’s womb he pronounced my name.” His unexpected birth was revealed to his father and his name given to him.

“He made my mouth a sharp sword… he made me into a sharpened arrow…” express John’s effectiveness as a prophet and herald. The reading also implies the suffering and frustrations that were part of John’s life. In the end he was thrown into prison and, on the whim of Herod’s illegitimate wife, executed. But his life was not in vain. He became, in the words of the reading, “the light of the nations so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth”.

John was the last and in some ways the greatest of the Hebrew Testament prophets. As the preface for today’s Mass says he was chosen “from all the prophets to show the world its redeemer, the Lamb of sacrifice”. It was he, who in John’s gospel, points out Jesus to his disciples as the “Lamb of God”.

Apart from preaching a message of repentance and conversion to the large number of people who came to hear him, he “baptised Christ, the giver of baptism, in waters made holy by the one who was baptised”.

He is presented as a man of total honesty and integrity. Perhaps it was this which attracted so many to come and hear him. And because of this he ultimately lost his life when he denounced King Herod who had married his brother’s wife. He was “found worthy of a martyr’s death, his last and greatest act of witness to your Son”.

A model for all of us

John the Baptist’s life has a special meaning for all of us. We are, through our baptism, also called to be precursors of the Lord. Our baptism imposes on us an obligation to share our faith and to give witness to the Way of Jesus, both in word and action. There is no other way by which the average person can come to know and experience the love of Christ.

It is well put by Paul, writing to the church at Rome a long time ago: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!’” (Romans 10:13-16)

In that sense, we are all called to be “preachers”. Our lives individually and collectively are meant to send out a message and an invitation: “Come and join us and share our experience of faith, love and fellowship.” If we are honest, we know that we do not do that nearly enough and often give an opposite message altogether. As the unbeliever Nietzsche said, “If they want me to be Christian they will have to look as if they are saved.” The signals we send out as individuals, as families, as parish are really the only way that people who are searching for meaning in their lives may be led to find that meaning in the Gospel.

Let us ask John the Baptist today to help us by the way we live our lives to clear a path which will draw people closer to knowing and experiencing Christ.

http://livingspace.sacredspace.ie/o1122g/

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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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 KeytotheReadingThis passage of the Gospel formspartoftheso called accounts of the infancy of Jesus. In a particular way this text follows the scene of the Visitation of Mary “in the house of Zechariah” (Lk 1, 40) after the event of the Annunciation of the Angel, the messenger of the new creation.In fact, the Annunciation inaugurates in a joyful way the fulfilment of God’s promise to His People (Lk 1, 26-38). The joy of the new times, which filled Mary, now inundates the heart of Elizabeth. She rejoices with the announcement brought by Mary (Lk 1, 41). Mary, on the other hand, “magnifies the Lord” (Lk 1, 46) because He has worked great things in her, just as He has worked great marvels for His people in need of salvation.
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The expression “the time came” reminds us that this reality does not only strike Elizabeth about to give birth, but reveals also something of God’s project. In fact, Saint Paul tells us that when the completion of the time came, God sent His Only Begotten Son “born of a woman, born a subject of the Law, to redeem the subjects of the Law, so that we could receive adoption of sons” of God (Gal 4, 4).In the Gospel Jesus in fact, speaks about the completion of times, especially in the Gospel of John.
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Two of these times are the wedding at Cana (Jn 2, 1-12) and the agony on the cross where Jesus exclaims that “all is fulfilled” (Jn 19, 30). In the fulfilment of the times Jesus inaugurates an era of salvation. The birth of John the Baptist inaugurates this time of salvation. In fact, at the arrival of the Messiah he exults and leaps in the womb of his mother, Elizabeth (Lk 1, 44). Later on, he will define himself as the friend of the bridegroom (Jesus) who exults and rejoices because of the event of the wedding with the bride, the Church (Jn 3, 29).The son will not be named as his father Zechariah, but John. Zechariah reminds us that God does not forget His people. In fact, his name means “God remembers”.
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His son will now be called “God remembers”, because God’s promises were being fulfilled. The prophetic mission of John has to indicate God’s mercy. In fact, he will be calledJohanan, that is “God is mercy”. This mercy is manifested in the visit to the People, precisely “as he had promised by the mouth of his holy prophets of ancient times” (Lk 1, 67-70). Thus, the name indicates the mission of the one about to be born. Zechariah will write the name of his son on a tablet so that all could see with admiration (Lk 1, 63). This tablet is the echo of another inscription, written by Pilate to be fixed on the cross of Jesus. This inscription revealed the identity of the mission of the Crucified: “Jesus, the Nazarene, King of the Jews” (Jn 19, 19). This writing also provoked the admiration of those who were in Jerusalem for the feast.John is the precursor of Jesus in everything. Already since his birth and childhood he points out to Christ. “Who will this child be? He is “the voice which cries out in the desert” (Jn 1, 23), impelling all to prepare the way of the Lord. He is not the Messiah (Jn 1, 20), but he indicates this with his preaching and above all with his life style of asceticism in the desert. Meanwhile the child grew up and his spirit grew strong. He lived in the desert until the day he appeared openly to Israel”. (Lk 1, 80).

3.1.1. Questions to direct the meditation and the carrying out

– What has struck you in this passage and in the reflection?

– John identifies himself as the friend of the bridegroom. According to you, what is the meaning of this image?

– John the Baptist has always been seen by the Church as its type. He is the one who prepares the way for the Lord. Does this have some relevance for our daily life?

Oratio

Let us bless the Lord together with Zechariah (Lk 1, 68-79)

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
for he has visited his people, he has set them free,
and he has established for us a saving power
in the House of his servant David,
just as he proclaimed,
by the mouth of his holy prophets from ancient times,
that he would save us from our enemies
and from the hands of all those who hate us,
and show faithful love to our ancestors,
and so keep in mind his holy covenant.
This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham,
that he would grant us, free from fear,
to be delivered from the hands of our enemies,
to serve him in holiness and uprightness in his presence,
all our days.
And you, little child,
you shall be called Prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare a way for him,
to give his people knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the faithful love of our God
in which the rising Sun has come from on high to visit us,
to give light to those who live in darkness
and the shadow dark as death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Contemplatio

Let us all together adore the mercy and the goodness of God repeating in silence:
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be,
world without end. Amen

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-nativity-saint-john-baptist

St John the Baptist by Donatello

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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SCRIPTURE READINGS: ISAIAH 49:1-6; ACTS 13:22-26; LUKE 1:57-66, 80

‘What will this child turn out to be?’ they wondered.” We too wonder whenever a child is born.  This is always the concern of every parent.  All parents want their children to grow up to be happy and successful.  We want them to be good and God-fearing people.  We want the best for them.  The greatest joy of parents is to see their children doing well in life; successful in their career, prosperous, have a good family themselves, bringing glory and pride to them.

Yet, the desire of every parent is contradicted by the very way they raise their children.  It is ironical that parents, who are supposed to be the source of their strength, often turn out to be their enemies and the cause of their woes, heart pain, malfunctioning and downfall!  How could this be so when parents love their children so much and children truly love their parents?  Indeed, most young people want to please their parents and make them happy.  So why is there this anomaly?

As St Paul tells us in Romans 7, the good we want to do, we don’t do; and the evil we don’t want to do, we do. The root cause of many problems in society has to do with our parents.  The truth is that they themselves are very much wounded and broken like the rest of humanity.  This is what Original Sin is all about.  St Paul made it clear in Romans 3:21 that “all men have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  This is because in Adam, all have sinned.  In other words, because we share the nature of Adam, the first parent, we too share in his psychological, hereditary and social traits.  Just as we share in the genes of our parents, so too, this applies to the spiritual and psychological “genes” as well.  So long as we are part of this human race, we cannot escape from inheriting their weaknesses and being influenced by them.  Original Sin therefore explains existentially, why we are all broken people, ignorant due to the loss of infused knowledge; controlled by concupiscence due to the loss of integrity; fear of pain and death due to the inability to integrate into the providential plan of God.  Consequently, every generation is somehow affected by the earlier generation.

Thus, all of us are sinners.  Indeed, there are only two kinds of people on this earth; those who are sinners and those who think they are not sinners.  As the gospel says, with the blind leading the blind, both will fall into the ditch.  When we have wounded and broken parents, necessarily, they will unconsciously, if not sometimes consciously, inflict their wounds on their children.  Parents often mean well in whatever they do for their children but often they are clouded by their own fears and self-interests, so much so they act out of their fears and insecurity rather than truly out of their love and concern for them.  Parents who are confused in their own lives often confuse those under their charge as they are equally ignorant about the truth and the values of life.

The future of humanity is dependent on whether our children have an ambience of a truly loving family, where parents are united in love and forgiveness; and where gospel-based values are not only taught but lived and practised.   In the final analysis, what the child becomes would be dependent on the kind of formation and education they receive.  Unfortunately, parents today see academic performance as the only value in education.  We are more concerned about whether our children are enrolled in the top schools for academic performance rather than for the moral and religious values they impart.  Success is reduced to getting good grades and not about formation in ethical and moral values.  Without paying attention to the religious and moral upbringing of our children, we are grooming a generation without values, a body without a soul, one that is self-centered, materialistic and lacking virtues.

Today as we celebrate the Birthday of John the Baptist, we are reminded of our responsibility as parents.  Every child is truly a gift of God to the world.  As parents and guardians of children and those entrusted to look after young people, we have a duty to help each child to be truly a gift of God to the world.

This entails, first and foremost, helping them to realize the plan of God for them.  We are all called even before we were born.  Indeed, every child has a purpose in the plan of God.  Our task is to help each child to fulfill God’s desire for them; not ours.  As parents, we have a duty to be like Elizabeth who raised her child to become what God had called him to be.

So the first duty of parents is to lead their children to God. This is the most important duty of parents.  Even if we have given them the best education to face the world, but if we fail to give them Jesus, we have failed miserably.  The greatest gift we can give to anyone is Jesus; not toys, electronic gadgets, food or holidays! When we give them Jesus, we give them everything, purpose, mission, enthusiasm, peace, love and joy.  When we lead them to God, they become loving and caring people.  Those who know God will also love their neighbours.  Just instructing them alone is not sufficient to give them the strength to love.  We must give them Jesus so that they can be molded in His image and likeness.

Indeed, it is our task to help them regain the glory of God lost through sin.  By giving them Jesus, they in turn will become the light of the world.  They will become the messengers of the Lord, like John the Baptist.  “It is not enough for you to be my servant, to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel; I will make you the light of the nations so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”   We must give our children purpose and a sense of mission or vocation in life.

How can we become God’s formators for our children?  Being broken and wounded ourselves, we must, as parents and guardians, seek healing.  We must face the fact that we are not perfect as parents.  We too are in need of healing and reconciliation.  In humility, we must admit that we too are seeking to grow in grace and in the love of God so that we can exercise the fatherhood and motherhood of God in our lives.  We are wounded healers.  It is vital that if we are to heal others, we must initiate the healing process ourselves.   We must ask forgiveness from our children and our spouse.

Secondly, our children also need healing like us.  They too are hurt, wounded, broken, bitter, angry and resentful with us and also with God.  Many do not know how to express their hurts.  In fact healing them is more challenging as they are unable to articulate their pain, since most of these pains are repressed in their sub-conscious.  They do not even want to talk about them as they lack trust in people, since their very parents whom they trust so much have betrayed them.  So when these are all bottled up, no healing can take place.  For young people, we have to be extremely patient and tolerant.   Before we can get them to open up, we need to regain their confidence, trust and love.

How then can this process be helped? We must pray for the inner healing of such individuals. Besides inner healing, another important area of healing is inter-generational healing.   The basis for this healing is rooted in the fact that we are somehow inter-related.  What we are today are very much determined and conditioned by the genes and traits we have inherited and the environment we have been formed.

 If we have tried our best as parents to raise our children in the faith, then we can just surrender them to God and leave them to His mercy.  We know we are not inadequate as parents and we should not blame ourselves too much for our children going wayward.  Society has a great part to be blamed too and this is not within our control.  We can only do what we can.  And so like the Suffering Servant, let us take courage and confidence in God for He said, “I have exhausted myself for nothing; and all the while my cause was with the Lord, my reward with my God. I was honoured in the eyes of the Lord, my God was my strength.”  Yes, the psalmist says, “O Lord, you have probed me, you know me: you know when I sit and when I stand; you understand my thoughts from afar. My journeys and my rest you scrutinize, with all my ways you are familiar.”

At the end of the day, we must learn to let them go like John the Baptist did.  At the end of his career, realizing that his mission was over, he said, “I am not the one you imagine me to be; that one is coming after me and I am not fit to undo his sandal.”  We too must learn to let go of our children when they grow up.  They are not our property.  We must let them go to have their own lives.  We must not cling on to them because they too have their mission to fulfill.  Otherwise, they will live unfulfilled lives.  We have given them a place to grow in love and develop themselves as God’s children, in freedom and confidence.  Letting go of our children is important.  By letting them go, they will come back to us as our equals and yet having the intimacy of a parent-child.  On our part, we can rest in peace knowing that our work is complete.

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First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom:

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Today we might ask ourselves: Is my life being responsive to God’s will — God’s calling to me? Am I doing his will or my will? Am I accepting his invitation to the banquet or turning my back toward him?

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God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!

St John the Baptist by Donatello. Hand carved wood

http://www.perfectraveller.com/article.asp?aid=182

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The Nativity of St. John, the Baptist

By Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1877

In the holy Gospel, the nativity of St. John the Baptist, who was the forerunner of Christ, is described by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, not only for our instruction, but also that we may rejoice in the Lord our God. In the mountains of Judaea, at Hebron, eight miles from Jerusalem, lived Zachary and Elizabeth. They were just people, and lived in accordance with the commandments of God, but had no children, although they had prayed for them many years. The great age which they had attained, naturally gave them no longer any hope of issue. But still they continued their prayer. One day, when Zachary, who was a priest, offered incense in the Temple at Jerusalem, he saw at the right side of the altar, an angel, whose appearance filled the pious old man with fear and trembling.

The angel, however, said to him: ” Fear not, Zachary, for thy prayer is heard. Elizabeth, thy wife, shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. He shall bring thee joy and gladness, and many shall rejoice in his nativity. He shall be great before the Lord and shall drink no strong drink, and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother’s womb. He shall convert many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God: and he shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elias: that he may turn the hearts of the fathers unto the children, and the incredulous to the wisdom of the just, to prepare unto the Lord a perfect people.”

Zachary listened with great astonishment: the angel’s promise seemed to him to be out of the course of nature. Hence, he said: “Whereby shall I know this? For, I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” The angel answered: “I am Gabriel, who stand before God, and I am sent to speak to thee and bring thee these good tidings. And behold, thou shalt be dumb and not able to speak until the day wherein these things shall come to pass, because thou hast not believed my words, which shall be fulfilled in their time.” After this the angel disappeared, and Zachary, mute from that hour, returned home after he had discharged his priestly functions.

The words of the Archangel Gabriel came to pass. Elizabeth conceived and gave praise and thanks to God that He had removed from her the disgrace of being barren. Six months later, the Most High sent the angel Gabriel to the blessed Virgin, at Nazareth, to announce to her that she should become the mother of the long expected Messiah. He at the same time informed her that her cousin Elizabeth, although she was old and barren, had conceived a son, as to God nothing was impossible. After Mary had resigned herself with deep humility to the will of the Almighty, and become the mother of the Son of God, she went into the mountains of Judaea, to the house of Elizabeth and Zachary. She did not go to see if the angel’s words in regard to Elizabeth were true, but to congratulate her happy cousin, and render her such services as she would need.

The Gospel assures us that when the Virgin Mother entered the dwelling of Zachary and greeted Elizabeth, John, the yet unborn child, leaped for joy in his mother’s womb, as soon as Mary’s words of salutation reached Elizabeth’s ear, and Elizabeth herself was filled with the Holy Ghost. This leaping of the unborn Saint, was, according to the holy fathers, a sign that John, by special favor of the Almighty, knew the Saviour, yet concealed from the eyes of the world, and rejoicing in His presence, adored Him. Hence they teach that John was at that moment cleansed from original sin and filled with the Holy Ghost, and thus fulfilled the words of the angel and was sanctified in the womb of his mother.

At length came the time when he was to see the light of day, and Elizabeth gave birth to him whom the angel had promised and prophesied. When the neighbors and relatives heard how gracious God had been to Elizabeth, they all went to see her and congratulate her. On the eighth day the child was circumcised according to the law. As children, on this occasion, received a name, the relatives wished to give him that of his father, but Elizabeth opposed it, saying: ” John is his name!” “But there is none among thy kindred that is called by this name,” said her friends. Elizabeth, however, remained inflexible. Turning to the still mute Zachary, they desired to know how he would have him called. Zachary asked for a writing-table and wrote; “John is his name.”

And at the same time his speech returned, and filled with the Holy Ghost, he gave thanks to God in the beautiful hymn which is one of the daily prayers of the Church, and begins: ” Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and wrought the redemption of his people.” All those present marvelled at these events, praised God, and spread among the people all that they had heard and seen, and concluded from it that the new-born child was destined to be great among them. Hence they said to each other: “What do you think shall this child be? for the hand of the Lord is with him.”

Thus writes St. Luke, in his gospel, of the nativity of St. John, and then adds that, “he grew and was strengthened in spirit;” and was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel, by his preaching and baptizing.

Several holy fathers write that Elizabeth fled with her child into the desert, to conceal herself from the cruelties of king Herod; and that John was nourished and kept either by an angel or in some other manner by divine Providence. Others write that, in his third or at most in his fifth year, he had voluntarily gone into the desert, eager to serve God more perfectly and to prepare himself for his mission. No one ought to think this incredible; since, even before he was born, he was gifted with the use of his reason, and comprehended the great mission to which he was called by the Almighty. So much is certain that he was from his most tender years in the wilderness.

The holy Evangelists and the holy fathers tell us what manner of life he led there. He subsisted on wild honey and locusts, which are used as food in the East; but he ate so little, that our Lord said of him, that he had neither taken food nor drink. His drink was water; his garments, a coat of camels’-hair, which was fastened round his loins by a leathern belt. The ground was his bed, and he employed day and night in prayer and meditation. By fasting and other austere penances, he prepared himself for his mission. St. Augustine remarks that the severe life of penance of John was the model after which the hermits regulated their lives; hence they acknowledge him as their founder.

When in his thirtieth year, St. John was admonished by God to leave the wilderness and commence his mission. Going to the river Jordan, he preached penance and baptized the penitents. This baptism was not that which Christ instituted in the course of time: neither had it the power which the baptism of Christ has; but was only a sign of penance. In the Gospel it is related how great a multitude of people came to St. John; what he preached; how he exhorted them to do penance: how he had the honor to baptize Christ Himself, and what occurred during this event. The splendid testimony is spoken of, which he gave at different times, to the effect that Christ was the true Messiah. It is also recorded what he answered to those who were sent to him to ask whether he was the promised Messiah; for, his life was so holy and wonderful, that many believed him to be the long promised Redeemer. The events of the latter part of the life of this Saint will be related in the chapter for the day on which the church commemorates his decapitation.

Among the writings of the holy Fathers we find many sermons which contain magnificent praises of the virtues of St. John, the Baptist. They call him an angel in the flesh; an apostle in his sermons; a miracle of penance; the first hermit who induced so many thousands to imitate him; the first preacher of repentance, and proclaimer of the heavenly kingdom. They praise his fearlessness in reproving vice, both in high and in low; his deep humility, by which he deemed himself not worthy to baptize Christ, or even to unloose the latchet of His shoes; his angelic purity; his continual penance and his unwearied zeal for the honor of God and the welfare of men. But what should inspire every one with the greatest reverence towards this Saint is the fact, that Christ our Lord Himself praised the greatness and holiness of St. John so frequently, and said that among men there had been none greater than John the Baptist. What more can be said in his praise?

Practical Considerations

At the time when the Divine Mother visited her holy cousin Elizabeth, the yet unborn John was cleansed from original sin and sanctified by the grace of the Almighty. What an inexpressibly great grace! You partook of the same after your birth, when you received holy baptism. You were at that time cleansed from the stain of original sin, and from a child of wrath became a child of God, a temple and a dwelling of the Holy Ghost, and obtained the right to eternal happiness. ” Behold what manner of charity the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called and should be the sons of God;” writes the holy Apostle John (John iii.) Consider this unspeakably great favor which God in His mercy has shown to you, in preference to so many thousands. But have you ever made manifest to God your gratitude for this great mercy? Commence this day to offer your thanks to Him, and repeat them yearly on the day of your birth or of your baptism. Take heed that you turn not again to a child of wrath from a child of God, and that from “a dwelling of the Holy Ghost you become not a habitation for the devil; and thus, by sin, forfeit the claim you had on heaven. “By baptism, you have become a temple and a dwelling of the Holy Ghost,” says St. Leo; “do not drive away so noble an inhabitant and become again a slave of the devil.”

St. John kept the grace and innocence which he received in the womb of his mother unimpaired, and yet led a most austere life from his tenderest years until his end. How does it happen that you have such an aversion to all penances, as you certainly must know that you have long since lost the grace and innocence received in holy baptism? Why will you not mortifiy your body either by fasts or other acts of self-denial? Why do you persist in allowing yourself all that your body desires; and why do you avoid every thing that is in the least burdensome or hard for you? “John punished and mortified his innocent body so severely;” says St. Bernard, “and you desire to adorn your sinful body with silk and velvet, and nourish it with delicate food.” How is this? How do you suppose you will be able to render an account of your doings to God? Truly, if we could save our souls as easily without all self-denial, by enjoying the pleasures of the world, and living in comfort and luxury, we might say that John did not act wisely in leading so severe a life. But who dares even think this of one who before he was born was already filled with the Holy Ghost? We act very unwisely if we flatter ourselves that, living so different a life, shall obtain a place in heaven near him. “Hence,” says the above-cited holy teacher, “let us encourage ourselves to do penance,” in consideration of the austere penances, of St. John. “Let us stimulate ourselves to mortify our bodies, that we may escape the awful judgment of the living God.”

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Sermon of St. Augustine

After that really holy birthday of the Lord, we do not read of the birthday of any man being celebrated, except that of blessed John the Baptist. In the case of other Saints and elect of God, we know that that day is honored on which, when their works were accomplished and the world conquered and completely subdued, they were born from this present life into the everlasting life of eternity. In others we honor the completed merits of their last day; in this present case, the first day, and the very beginning of this man is holy; doubtless for this reason, that the Lord wished his coming to be attested, lest if he came suddenly and unexpectedly, men might not recognize him. But John was a figure of the old Testament, and typified the law in himself; and therefore John foretold the Savior, just as the law preceded grace.
When not yet born, he prophesied from the hiding-place of his mother’s womb, and already bore witness to the truth though destitute of light himself. This event must be understood in the sense that, hidden under the veil and flesh of the letter, by the spirit he preached the Redeemer to the world, and proclaimed our Lord to us as from the womb of the Law. Therefore because the Jews went astray from the womb, that is, from the Law which was pregnant with Christ, they went astray from the womb, speaking lies; and so John came for a witness, to give testimony of the light.

John, lying in prison, directs his disciples to Christ. This event represents the Law sending to the Gospel. The same Law is typified by John, enclosed as it were in the prison of ignorance, lying in the dark in a hidden place, and held captive in the letter by Jewish blindness. Of him the blessed Evangelist proclaims: He was a burning and a shining light, that is, he was enkindled by the fire of the Holy Spirit, that to a world held in the night of ignorance he might show forth the light of salvation, and amid the thickest darkness of sin might by his ray point out the most resplendent sun of justice, saying of himself: I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.

Elizabeth’s time was fulfilled that she should be delivered, and she brought forth a son. And her neighbors and kinsfolk heard that the Lord had magnified his mercy towards her, and they rejoiced with her. And so forth.

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The birth of St. John the Baptist

Homily of St. Ambrose

Elizabeth brought forth a son, and her neighbors rejoiced with her. The birth of Saints brings joy to very many, since it is a benefit to all; for justice is a virtue for all. And so, in the birth of a just man, a token of his future life is foreshown, and the grace of the virtue to come is expressed by the prophetic joy of the neighbors. It is fitting that there should be mention of the time when the Prophet was in the womb, lest the presence of Mary should not be remembered; but nothing is told of the time of his childhood, for he did not know the disabilities of childhood. And so we read nothing of him in the Gospel, except his birth, and his announcement, the leaping in the womb, the voice in the wilderness.

For he did not experience the helplessness of childhood, he who supernaturally, outstripping his age, began from the measure of the age of the fulness of Christ, when still tying in his mother’s womb. It is strange how the holy Evangelist thought it necessary to tell us that many considered that the child should be called by his father’s name of Zachary; in order that you might notice that the mother would not have the name of any relative, but only that given by the Holy Ghost, which the Angel had previously announced to Zachary. And indeed, the latter, still dumb, could not tell his wife the name of their son; but Elizabeth learned by prophecy what she had not learned from her husband.

John, he says, is his name; that is, it is not for us to give a name to the one who has already received a name from God. He has his name, which we know, but we did not choose it. To receive a name from God is one of the rewards of the Saints. So Jacob was called Israel, because he saw God. So our Lord Jesus was named before he was born; not an Angel, however, but his Father gave him his name. You see that Angels announce what they have heard, not what they take upon themselves. Do not wonder, that the woman pronounced a name she had not heard; when the Holy Ghost, who had commanded the Angel, revealed it to her.


The birth of St. John the Baptist
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Prayer and Meditation for Tuesday, June 24, 2014 — “His mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God.”

June 23, 2014

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Saint John The Baptist — Unknown Artist. St Catherine Monastery, Mt Sinai Egypt. 6th century

Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
Mass during the Day
Lectionary: 587

Reading 1 is 49:1-6

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Hear me, O coastlands,
listen, O distant peoples.
The LORD called me from birth,
from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.
He made of me a sharp-edged sword
and concealed me in the shadow of his arm.
He made me a polished arrow,
in his quiver he hid me.
You are my servant, he said to me,
Israel, through whom I show my glory.Though I thought I had toiled in vain,
and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength,
yet my reward is with the LORD,
my recompense is with my God.
For now the LORD has spoken
who formed me as his servant from the womb,
that Jacob may be brought back to him
and Israel gathered to him;
and I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD,
and my God is now my strength!
It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant,
to raise up the tribes of Jacob,
and restore the survivors of Israel;
I will make you a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.

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Responsorial Psalm ps 139:1b-3, 13-14ab, 14c-15

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R. (14) I praise you, for I am wonderfully made.
O LORD, you have probed me, you know me:
you know when I sit and when I stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.
My journeys and my rest you scrutinize,
with all my ways you are familiar.
R. I praise you for I am wonderfully made.
Truly you have formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother’s womb.
I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made;
wonderful are your works.
R. I praise you, for I am wonderfully made.
My soul also you knew full well;
nor was my frame unknown to you
When I was made in secret,
when I was fashioned in the depths of the earth.
R. I praise you, for I am wonderfully made.
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Reading 2 acts 13:22-26

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In those days, Paul said:
“God raised up David as king;
of him God testified,
I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart;
he will carry out my every wish
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From this man’s descendants God, according to his promise,
has brought to Israel a savior, Jesus.
John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance
to all the people of Israel;
and as John was completing his course, he would say,
‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he.
Behold, one is coming after me;
I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.’

“My brothers, sons of the family of Abraham,
and those others among you who are God-fearing,
to us this word of salvation has been sent.”

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Gospel lk 1:57-66, 80

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When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child
she gave birth to a son.
Her neighbors and relatives heard
that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her,
and they rejoiced with her.
When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child,
they were going to call him Zechariah after his father,
but his mother said in reply,
“No. He will be called John.”
But they answered her,
“There is no one among your relatives who has this name.”
So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.
He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,”
and all were amazed.
Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed,
and he spoke blessing God.
Then fear came upon all their neighbors,
and all these matters were discussed
throughout the hill country of Judea.
All who heard these things took them to heart, saying,
“What, then, will this child be?”
For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.
The child grew and became strong in spirit,
and he was in the desert until the day
of his manifestation to Israel.
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Lectio Divina from the Carmelites
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 Key to the Reading

This passage of the Gospel forms part of the so called accounts of the infancy of Jesus. In a particular way this text follows the scene of the Visitation of Mary “in the house of Zechariah” (Lk 1, 40) after the event of the Annunciation of the Angel, the messenger of the new creation.

In fact, the Annunciation inaugurates in a joyful way the fulfilment of God’s promise to His People (Lk 1, 26-38). The joy of the new times, which filled Mary, now inundates the heart of Elizabeth. She rejoices with the announcement brought by Mary (Lk 1, 41). Mary, on the other hand, “magnifies the Lord” (Lk 1, 46) because He has worked great things in her, just as He has worked great marvels for His people in need of salvation.

The expression “the time came” reminds us that this reality does not only strike Elizabeth about to give birth, but reveals also something of God’s project. In fact, Saint Paul tells us that when the completion of the time came, God sent His Only Begotten Son “born of a woman, born a subject of the Law, to redeem the subjects of the Law, so that we could receive adoption of sons” of God (Gal 4, 4).

In the Gospel Jesus in fact, speaks about the completion of times, especially in the Gospel of John. Two of these times are the wedding at Cana (Jn 2, 1-12) and the agony on the cross where Jesus exclaims that “all is fulfilled” (Jn 19, 30). In the fulfilment of the times Jesus inaugurates an era of salvation. The birth of John the Baptist inaugurates this time of salvation. In fact, at the arrival of the Messiah he exults and leaps in the womb of his mother, Elizabeth (Lk 1, 44). Later on, he will define himself as the friend of the bridegroom (Jesus) who exults and rejoices because of the event of the wedding with the bride, the Church (Jn 3, 29).

The son will not be named as his father Zechariah, but John. Zechariah reminds us that God does not forget His people. In fact, his name means “God remembers”. His son will now be called “God remembers”, because God’s promises were being fulfilled. The prophetic mission of John has to indicate God’s mercy. In fact, he will be called Johanan, that is “God is mercy”. This mercy is manifested in the visit to the People, precisely “as he had promised by the mouth of his holy prophets of ancient times” (Lk 1, 67-70). Thus, the name indicates the mission of the one about to be born. Zechariah will write the name of his son on a tablet so that all could see with admiration (Lk 1, 63). This tablet is the echo of another inscription, written by Pilate to be fixed on the cross of Jesus. This inscription revealed the identity of the mission of the Crucified: “Jesus, the Nazarene, King of the Jews” (Jn 19, 19). This writing also provoked the admiration of those who were in Jerusalem for the feast.

John is the precursor of Jesus in everything. Already since his birth and childhood he points out to Christ. “Who will this child be? He is “the voice which cries out in the desert” (Jn 1, 23), impelling all to prepare the way of the Lord. He is not the Messiah (Jn 1, 20), but he indicates this with his preaching and above all with his life style of asceticism in the desert. Meanwhile the child grew up and his spirit grew strong. He lived in the desert until the day he appeared openly to Israel”. (Lk 1, 80).

3.1.1. Questions to direct the meditation and the carrying out

– What has struck you in this passage and in the reflection?

– John identifies himself as the friend of the bridegroom. According to you, what is the meaning of this image?

– John the Baptist has always been seen by the Church as its type. He is the one who prepares the way for the Lord. Does this have some relevance for our daily life?

Oratio

Let us bless the Lord together with Zechariah (Lk 1, 68-79)

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
for he has visited his people, he has set them free,
and he has established for us a saving power
in the House of his servant David,
just as he proclaimed,
by the mouth of his holy prophets from ancient times,
that he would save us from our enemies
and from the hands of all those who hate us,
and show faithful love to our ancestors,
and so keep in mind his holy covenant.
This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham,
that he would grant us, free from fear,
to be delivered from the hands of our enemies,
to serve him in holiness and uprightness in his presence,
all our days.
And you, little child,
you shall be called Prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare a way for him,
to give his people knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the faithful love of our God
in which the rising Sun has come from on high to visit us,
to give light to those who live in darkness
and the shadow dark as death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Contemplatio

Let us all together adore the mercy and the goodness of God repeating in silence:
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be,
world without end. Amen

http://ocarm.org/en/content/lectio/lectio-divina-nativity-saint-john-baptist

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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THE JOY OF BEING A GIFT FOR THE LORD

SCRIPTURE READINGS: ISAIAH 49:1-6; ACTS 13:22-26; LUKE 1:57-66.80
http://www.universalis.com/20140624/mass.htm

The birthday of John the Baptist is also known as “Little Christmas” because it precedes the birth of Jesus Christ.  Six months from now, we will celebrate Christmas.  Understandably, we read in the gospel that some thought John the Baptist was the Christ but the latter categorically quashed such a suggestion for he saw himself and his mission as the forerunner of Christ.  Indeed, before John ended his career he said, “I am not the one you imagine me to be; that one is coming after me and I am not fit to undo his sandal.”

Interestingly, the liturgy of the Church celebrates the birthdays of John the Baptist and Jesus six months apart from each other with John as the precursor. It is also important to note that other than the birthdays of John the Baptist and the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Church does not celebrate the birthday of saints. We celebrate their death anniversary only because their death is when they receive the fullness of eternal life.  However in the case of John the Baptist, he was sanctified in the womb of Elizabeth whereas Mary was sanctified at the moment of conception in the womb of St Anne.

Why do we celebrate birthdays or death anniversaries?  In both instances, we celebrate the gift of new life.  However, in death anniversaries, we celebrate more than just the gift of life but that of eternal life.   Regardless of whether it is birth or death, one must appreciate that life is a gift from God. The gift of life is given to us so that we can be a gift for others.

John is seen as the gift of God. John the Baptist is truly the gift of God because Elizabeth and Zechariah, his parents, were in their old age when he was conceived.  This is what the name “John” means, that God is gracious.  ”He will be your joy and delight.”  In the birth of John and Jesus the Messiah, we see the grace of God breaking forth into a world broken by sin and death and without hope. John’s miraculous birth speaks of his call to prepare for the coming of the Messiah.  He is also the gift of God because he is given to us as a priest and prophet.

But what confirms John the Baptist as a gift of God to His people is God’s presence in him.   It can be said that because God had given himself as a gift to him, “indeed the hand of the Lord was with him”, he became a gift to others.  It was only because of God’s gift of himself in the Holy Spirit that “the child grew up and his spirit matured.”  On his part, John the Baptist found joy in being with the Lord.  He spent all his time in the desert so that he could be one with the Lord without distraction.  He knew that “the Lord called me before I was born, from my mother’s womb he pronounced my name”, and that his mission was to “to bring Jacob back to him, to gather Israel to him.”

Conscious of God’s call, he was courageous to speak the truth without fear or favour.  He saw himself as a gift to King Herod by being his prophet.  Before King Herod, he did not mince his words, as he did too, in reprimanding the Jewish leaders.  In spite of persecution and the threat of death, he did not give up.  Like Isaiah, his strength came from the Lord alone.  Yes, he could easily identify himself with the suffering servant thus, “while I was thinking, I have toiled in vain, I have exhausted myself for nothing; and all the while my cause was with the Lord, my reward with my God. I was honoured in the eyes of the Lord, my God was my strength.”

What was his secret?  He was a man of prayer and exercised self-discipline in his interior life. He listened to the Word of God and practiced mortification and fasting.  Truly, if he were such a great preacher and prophet, it was because he was one so filled with love for God.  Most of all, he was filled with the Holy Spirit.  John the Baptist met the Lord twice, firstly in the womb of his mother and then again at Jordan. In both instances, the Holy Spirit was actively encountered.   Yes, the gospel tells us that John was filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb by Christ Himself.  It was the Holy Spirit that anointed him to be the precursor for the messiah.

It must be this joy of encountering the Lord in the Holy Spirit that fueled him to want others to share in his joy.  His encounter with Jesus must be so deep that already in the womb of his mother, he wanted to give his life to Jesus.   His whole mission was to proclaim the coming of the Messiah and to remove the obstacles that prevent us from seeing Him when He comes.  Therefore like a voice in the wilderness, he appealed for a change of heart and repentance.

His joy was to see Jesus being known, not himself.  He knew that he was only the voice and not the Word.  He knew that he must decrease and Jesus must increase. He was humble to recognize that he was not fit to untie His sandals.  He was to prepare the way for Christ, after which he was to disappear.  “He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light.” (John 1:8)

How then can we share the joy of John the Baptist for the Lord?  We must first remove the obstacles of love in our lives.  We must take seriously the exhortation of John the Baptist to make every mountain low, removing pride and sin from our lives so that we too are called to be a life-giver.

Secondly, we must realize that we have been called to be His messengers of joy and love.  “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you came to birth I consecrated you.”   We are called to be a joy to others.  We are fortunate that we have received Jesus as a gift from God.  So we must now with joy, like John the Baptist, welcome Jesus and find strength in Him.  Following him, we are called to be servants of joy and love.  Like them, we must evangelize others by giving them the experience of the Lord, which is the joy of our strength in all we do, give and love.

Let us be like John the Baptist, recognizing ourselves as a gift from God and at the same time be a gift to God for others through our humble service in love.  We can do so only if like Jesus, we acquire a heart after Christ our good shepherd.

– See more at: http://www.csctr.net/24-june-2014-tuesday-the-nativity-of-st-john-the-baptist/#sthash.kbi6dC3S.dpuf

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Prayer and Meditation for Monday, June 24, 2013: Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

June 24, 2013

John the Baptist gives a Sermon by Frans The Younger Pourbus

Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist – Mass During the Day Lectionary: 587

Reading 1 Is 49:1-6

Hear me, O coastlands, listen, O distant peoples. The LORD called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name. He made of me a sharp-edged sword and concealed me in the shadow of his arm. He made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me. You are my servant, he said to me, Israel, through whom I show my glory.
Though I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, yet my reward is with the LORD, my recompense is with my God. For now the LORD has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb, that Jacob may be brought back to him and Israel gathered to him; and I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD, and my God is now my strength! It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.

Responsorial Psalm PS 139:1b-3, 13-14ab, 14c-15

R. (14) I praise you, for I am wonderfully made. O LORD, you have probed me, you know me: you know when I sit and when I stand; you understand my thoughts from afar. My journeys and my rest you scrutinize, with all my ways you are familiar. R. I praise you for I am wonderfully made. Truly you have formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made; wonderful are your works. R. I praise you, for I am wonderfully made. My soul also you knew full well; nor was my frame unknown to you When I was made in secret, when I was fashioned in the depths of the earth. R. I praise you, for I am wonderfully made.

Reading 2 Acts 13:22-26

In those days, Paul said: “God raised up David as king; of him God testified, I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will carry out my every wish. From this man’s descendants God, according to his promise, has brought to Israel a savior, Jesus. John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel; and as John was completing his course, he would say, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.’
“My brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those others among you who are God-fearing, to us this word of salvation has been sent.”

Gospel Lk 1:57-66, 80

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her. When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.” But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.” So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him. The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.
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John the Baptist:
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Homily for 6.24.12 LUKE 1:57-66, 80 (see below) Year B

Today we remember the life of John the Baptizer. As I meditated on our text I was struck by the special life that John offered the world, and I was struck by my own selfishness at not wanting to have the kind of life he was called to experience!
In my thirty-six years of active ministry I cannot remember how many homilies I have preached about the Baptizer, surely the number is in double-digits, but it never occurred to me, or better said, it never hit me as hard as it did on this reading and preparation just how foreign his life is from mine.
Now, as we shall see, part of this is calling — our callings are different, and part of it is anointing — he was gifted to be the an eremite (an inhabiter of the desert) and I am not, but part of it, surely, is that I am a person so often captured by the callings of technology and satiated doings of the world that I have little time for the quiet life (nor am I sure I want that life).
Said differently, the Baptizer’s life of dedication and laser-like focus confronts post-modern disciples with a challenge only matched by Messiah Jesus, himself.
So, let’s take a few moment this morning to think-through the special life of John the Baptizer. HIS SPECIAL NAME

When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.” But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.” So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed.

Of course, we know that the name, John means, “the Lord is gracious,” and that promise certainly proved true in the life of this particular John.
This is true, partly, because John’s parents were childless for many years, and how this must have burdened them, especially Elizabeth, and yet GOD was gracious and gave them a son.
You well remember the story, I’m sure, how John’s father, Zechariah was ministering before the Lord in the temple at the time of the incense offering when an angel appeared to him and revealed to him the promise of a son. And, indeed, a son came into their lives.
Can you imagine the joyful moment when, all their dreams, all their hopes burst before their eyes in the person of this baby boy. GOD was gracious to them; GOD was surely gracious.
But, of course, I am sure they realized that they would have to give this boy back to the Lord, which would mean that all their dreams for his life — for example marriage and grandchildren — would have to be renounced. I wonder, did this matter to them at all? It must have. In fact, I simply cannot see how it could not have mattered. I cannot see how they did not grieve all over again when the son, their only son, walked into the desert and left them.
But, this is the way of the world and the calling of the LORD. Joy and grief, mixed together and jumbled into each day.
We should add, that GOD is not just being gracious toward Zechariah and Elizabeth in the giving of John. No, he is also being gracious toward the world. That is, through the giving of this one life, GOD is closing the door of silence and opening the door to the completion of his promises to the Hebrew nation.
HIS SPECIAL CALLING

[Zechariah’s] mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him. The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.

This text accented the original promise that the angel gave Zechariah:

…he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. with the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:15-17)

I wonder how John learned of this calling. Can’t you hear his parents reciting daily the words of the angel? And can’t you see him hear the whispering neighbors as he passed in play?
My guess is from early on John knew others thought him special. I am glad no such burden will ever be place upon me.
Which made me wonder: It may have been easy for John to forgo all the accoutrements of his culture. He may have been so saturated with the Holy Spirit that leaving all, forsaking the loved and known may have been no challenge at all, but I doubt it. No, I think this special calling was dense and heavy with loss. I think he may have carried it well, but at least in the beginning there were tears and questions and fears.
What must be remembered is that the gift of solitude and quite desert communion must be learned. And to think otherwise in John’s life or any other religious is to think past their humanity, a thought of which GOD will have no part.
HIS SPECIAL MINISTRY
So, how long was John in the desert? Years, no doubt. But suddenly, at just the right time, the Spirit leads him into an active, outward ministry. He comes preaching in zeal for a national revival and a heart preparation for the final word from GOD, who is a person.
The famous prayer or Canticle of Zechariah perhaps is helpful in this regard:

Blessed be the Lord, The God of Israel; He has come to His people and set them free. He has raised up for us a mighty Saviour, Born of the house of His servant David. Through His holy prophets He promised of old That He would save us from our enemies, From the hands of all who hate us. He promised to show mercy to our fathers And to remember His holy Covenant. This was the oath He swore to our father Abraham: To set us free from the hands of our enemies, Free to worship Him without fear, Holy and righteous in His sight All the days of our life. You, My child shall be called The prophet of the Most High, For you will go before the Lord to prepare His way, To give his people knowledge of salvation By the forgiveness of their sins. In the tender compassion of our Lord The dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness And the shadow of death, And to guide our feet into the way of peace.

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LUKE 1:57-66, 80
When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child
she gave birth to a son.
Her neighbors and relatives heard
that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her,
and they rejoiced with her.
When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child,
they were going to call him Zechariah after his father,
but his mother said in reply,
“No. He will be called John.”
But they answered her,
“There is no one among your relatives who has this name.”
So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.
He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,”
and all were amazed.
Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed,
and he spoke blessing God.
Then fear came upon all their neighbors,
and all these matters were discussed
throughout the hill country of Judea.
All who heard these things took them to heart, saying,
“What, then, will this child be?”
For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.
The child grew and became strong in spirit,
and he was in the desert until the day
of his manifestation to Israel.