(Luke 1: 1-25, 57-68, 76-80)
The Gospel Reading for today describes the birth of the Holy Prophet and Baptist John, whom we are celebrating. Jesus had this to say: “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of woman there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11).
This is the greatest praise that has ever been heard about a man, from the lips of Jesus Christ Himself. John spoke Truth, and was enlightened by the Holy Spirit, revealing to the world that Jesus of Nazareth is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), and that “this is the Son of God” (John 1:34). He had the extraordinary honor of baptizing Jesus in the Jordan River. This is why the Church especially honors him, celebrating every year the various events of his life. Saint John is a model of obedience and humility, fasting and abstinence, courage and boldness, patience and perseverance, zeal and devotion to Christ. As the fiery Herald of God’s will, he preached sincere repentance and for the people to return to God.
The birth of John and the events surrounding it with his father, the priest Zacharias, are also important. “They had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years” (1:7). Suddenly, at the burning of incense in the Temple of Jerusalem, the priest Zacharias saw the Angel of God and heard him say, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth” (verses 13-14). And the Angel continued to describe the gifts and the great offering of John to the work of the Lord (see verses 15-17).
When Zacharias heard this joyous news, what did he do? Did he praise and thank God, who- at last- heard the prayers that he and his wife had spent a lifetime offering, that they would have a child? No! He disputed the words of the angel who spoke to him on behalf of God and answered the Angel: “How shall I know this? For I am an old man and my wife is well advanced in years” (verse 18). Think about it! Here we see Zacharias asked God for a child, God with His Angel assured him that his prayer was answered, and Zacharias did not believe it!
If we look at our own spiritual path so far, do we not see that we act in the same way? And if we want to look deeper at this question, is it not true that we ask for proof from God to accept His word? There are abundant examples: I faced a severe illness. All the doctors said that I would die. Last time, the Holy Unction was done and I escaped the danger, having my health restored. If it should happen again with me or someone I know, will I trust that Almighty God will heal or will the doubts begin? Well, yes, I became well, but now I do not know!
My dear brothers and sisters, what Christ told us and is written in the Holy Gospels is the Truth. “Whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” (Matthew 21:22). If it will be for our benefit, then God will grant it. It may be later, as happened in the case of Zacharias, but to be sure He has heard us and will answer us when and as He judges for our own good. How can we not see this, and ask God for guarantees? What if God answers this demand, and it is painful? This was what happened with Zacharias, to which God made him “mute and not able to speak” until the day of the birth of John, in order to be convinced that what God said would happen. Absolute obedience and trust in the love of God, without any doubt, should characterize our lives. Amen.