24th June, 2012 Readings: Nativity of St John the Baptist
This week’s Gospel revolves around the announcement of the impending birth of John the Baptist. Beyond just conveying this good news though, the passage bears testimony to the grace and power of God when Man puts their faith in him. In turn, it also instructs on what is deemed as greatness in the eyes of God.
The passage explicitly points out that the couple Zechariah and Elizabeth are of an old age. Further on from that, it states that Elizabeth is unable to bear children. This is a reflection of sorts of the human circumstance they both find themselves in. Common human logic would dictate that it would be impossible for them to have a child. As such, human logic would also cause one to turn from the notion of such a possibility faced with such circumstance.
Nonetheless, it is made apparent that all this while Zechariah has still kept faith in the Lord and maintained constant prayer asking for the blessing of child. This much is made clear when the angel said “God has heard your prayer”. This proclamation also serves as a vindication of faith. The couple is old, hence the prayer for a child must have been long dragged out. For them to have kept at prayer and led the righteous life of servitude the passage describes, they must have kept faith despite the long period of trial where Elizabeth was barren. In return, they were rewarded with a child when everything else said they could never have one.
For me, this message is striking since I’m at the point in my life where I’m trying to set the foundations for a successful career and in a way, life. For the most part, its been a very human effort i.e. I’ve put my faith in graft and hard work. In itself, I guess this isn’t wrong or a bad thing, but I’ve done this without thought of asking for intercession from God or depending on his instruction / strength. This passage is a reminder of sorts for me that man is limited but God isn’t and when we put our faith in him we will be rewarded. This especially so I think when we persevere in our faith through the trials and tribulations of our lives, when our humanity would tell us that what we strive for isn’t possible.
Then again, like the couple here, I guess our desires must be guided by God. They lived ‘good lives in God’s sight and obeyed fully all the Lord’s laws and commands’. By extension, their desires and wants are also founded in the Lord’s plan for them. It would appear then that not only must we keep our faith in the Lord but we must be guided by that faith to do as he directs.
This links to the angel’s description of John who “will be great in the Lord’s sight”. We can then believe that greatness according to the church is to “bring fathers and children together again” and “turn disobedient people back to the way of thinking of the righteous”. The passage is an instruction then on how to achieve greatness. Not the greatness as society would deem it, but eternal greatness by bringing people to God. It thus serves as a calling of sorts for us.
For me, the passage communicates that to reach beyond our humanity and the confines of what our minds and society tells us we can, we first need to have faith. We then needed to be guided by this faith to be great as defined by the Lord, to reach out to those around us and bring them to the church like John the Baptist before us. Only then, will we be rewarded and this reward will be greater than what we could possibly conceive and will come at a time that the Lord decides, just as Zechariah and Elizabeth were rewarded not only with a child, but with a child who was to be great, in their old age.
Reflecting on this, I guess this passage is a personal reminder to put the church and God at the center of what I do, an apt reminder at a point in time where I’m still struggling to re-commit to the church after a long period of absence.
– Melvin Seah