Today we celebrate the Nativity, the birth of St. John the Baptist. Throughout the year, the Church has marked dates upon which we remember the work of the Lord through particular people: Apostles and Prophets and pastors and missionaries and many other holy men and women of God through whom the Lord has proclaimed His saving Gospel and has shown us His gracious works. Thus, today we remember and give thanks for the birth of St. John the Baptist. John was a unique man. He is rightly called the last of the Old Testament prophets and the last one to preach the Good News before the Savior came. He is also the first of the New Testament preachers. His calling was to announce the Savior to the world and identify to the people, the man who is God in the Flesh, Jesus, the Son of God, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
The first reading, from the book of Isaiah, is the second of the four “Suffering Servant Songs.” In the first part of the reading the prophet describes—legitimizes—his call. God called him from the womb similar to the way Jeremiah was called. The Lord not only called him, but also empowered and protected him by giving him effective speech. This demonstrated God’s plan for Isaiah and His people. Isaiah prophesied/preached during the final phase of the Babylonian exile. His focus was to bring hope to the hopeless people living in exile. The prophet described some of the important responsibilities that the Lord had given him: To gather the people living in exile and bring them back to the land of Israel and to make Israel a light to other nations. Jesus fulfills this mission. He is the Suffering Servant, and faith in Him unites people, making Jesus the light to all nations.
The second reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, is part of a speech given by Paul in a synagogue in Antioch. The reading describes the mission of John the Baptist. John, in all humility, publicly acknowledged his mission, which was to be a herald for the Messiah. As such, his task was to prepare Israel to receive the Messiah by inviting them to receive the baptism of repentance. John proclaimed the coming of the Lord by preaching a baptism of repentance to all people.
The Gospel describes the birth of John the Baptist and his circumcision and naming ceremony on the eighth day. In the presence of friends and relatives, Zechariah, who had been struck dumb when he learned of his wife’s unlikely pregnancy, miraculously regained his speech after declaring in writing, “John is his name.” The name John means “God is gracious.” It was the name which God had commanded that the child be given, and it described the parents’ gratitude for this unexpected joy. The miraculous birth of the child to his elderly parents, the miraculous healing received by Zechariah and his prophetic hymn about the mission of his son prompted the people gathered for worship to ask, “What will this child turn out to be?” The people already recognized God’s power and plan for John even before he was born.
The mission of John is very clear, to announce the arrival of the Lamb and to make Jesus the light known to the world waiting for the Savior. This is what the priest does just before presenting you with the Eucharist. The priest raises up the Holy Eucharist in his hands and says, “Behold the Lamb of God…. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.” Like John, we too have a mission, to point out Jesus to the world and bring people closer to Jesus—to direct people to the Savior of the world, who takes away the sins of the world.
The reroofing work on our church has finally begun. The workers have started removing the tiles from the roof, and it will take about two weeks to remove all the tiles. As of now we haven’t identified any rotten wood that needs to be replaced. Let us pray that everything continues to go well, including the weather, so that we can complete the work on schedule. The air-conditioning in the church has been disconnected, and we will not have air conditioning for the next few weeks. Please bear with me. There will be some fans available and also we will leave the church doors open during Mass. We also have some fencing around the church, which might make parking a bit more difficult. If you need any assistance or information, please call the parish office.