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Homily on The Birth of John the Baptist.

By Sr. Louise, SSJD

It’s not very often that you’ll find me up here at the ambo other than for the readings.  But once in a while I like to stretch myself a bit and take on doing a homily or as today a Homilette.  I do this over at the hospital too and find it very enriching.   It challenges me to meditate with intention on the readings and to dig deep to see if there is something that hits me about it.  Today is just that.  The thing that hit me most for today’s readings is the word Questions.

The birth of John the Baptist was surrounded by mystery, confusion and many unanswered questions.  Much in the same way as Jesus’ nativity.

Religious scholars having observed the similarity of their lives.

Here was Elizabeth, well past child bearing years and thought to be barren, yet pregnant.   Question:   How is this possible?  No doubt this was the question that was asked in their village when it became obvious that she was with child.  And no doubt Elizabeth was quick to share the news of God’s mercy upon her.

Zechariah was also well on in years.   Question:   How is this possible?      

Zechariah wasn’t able to verbally explain anything as he had been struck mute by the angel Gabriel. 

I shudder to think of the rumors that must have flown around that village at that time.  Was this a fluke of nature, or the work of God? 

“Poor Zechariah, struck mute from the shock of it all.”  Or, Was this also the work of God?

So many unanswered questions.

And then, just to confuse things more, Elizabeth’s cousin Mary who was just a young girl, arrives for a visit.  She is unmarried, presumed a virgin and yet she too is obviously with child. Question:  What’s going on here? 

According to God’s plan, Elizabeth gave birth and a son was born.

It was when John was born that  family and friends recognized that this was a mercy from God for Elizabeth and Zechariah.  They had finally seen this as a God moment.  And  they rejoiced with them.

On the 8th day after the birth,  the day of circumcision and naming, another question pops up.

Question: What will his name be?

All were expecting the child to be named after his father Zechariah , however  Elizabeth stands firm and states  that he should be named John.

Finally, approaching the still mute Zechariah, they ask him.  What will he be named?   Zechariah replies using a slate and he writes, his name IS John, and with that action his tongue is loosed and he is able to speak.

Is it any wonder that the people ask “what will this child become?”

Zechariah answers this question with his song of praise to God.

“You my child will be called the prophet of the most high. You will go before the Lord to prepare his ways.  To give God’s people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins.”

What  great prophecies there were for John’s life.

In our Old Testament reading today we hear the people crying out to God to save them from their punishment.  And again in Zechariah’s song we hear:

“You have been gracious to your land, O Lord, you have restored the good fortune of Jacob. You have forgiven the iniquity of your people and blotted out all their sins.”

“Restore us then, O God our Savior , let your anger depart from us.”

Now we see the what John’ task will be. For with his birth and life, God has answered the pleas from the people.  God has heard their cry and shares the plans as to how it will all come to fruition.  We  hear of God’s reassurances that the people have been heard as God sets the stage for the Savior.  “Here is your God!”

“A voice cries out,  in the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Truth shall spring up from the earth and righteousness shall look down from heaven

Righteousness shall go forth before him, and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.”

“Then the glory of God shall be revealed.”

“The word of our God will stand forever.”

(image from