The Reading is from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke 1:1-25, 57-68, 76, 80
He was speechless……..and he stayed that way for more than 9 months.
We are told that there was a priest named Zacharias who had a wife named Elizabeth. St. Luke who is writing the account tells us that “ they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly.” This is very important. While there are exceptions to the rule we should remember that if we are parents or one day become parents and we want to have children who are saints, men and women that are strong before God and man, we must first be righteous before God, walking in ALL the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly.
It seems that Zacharias and Elizabeth were part of the “old-school” believers. They believed that following God was not simply a duty, but a privilege and a joy. They also believed that following God was not like going to Burger King, you couldn’t simply “have it your way”. You couldn’t go through the drive thru and say “I’d like commandment #1 but hold the #4 and #6. For Zacharias and Elizabeth following God meant following all the commandments and ordinances. That is how you show love for God. Not by simply saying you love God and doing whatever you want or feel. This is why the Lord Jesus says “If you love me, obey my commands”.
Now this Priest Zacharias was in the temple when the Angel Gabriel stood before him and told him that Elizabeth would give birth to a son who would be named John and “many will rejoice at his birth; for he will be great before the Lord”.
Today we rejoice over the birth of children and that is quite natural. We throw showers and give gifts and celebrate when a child is born or on their way. What the angel Gabriel mentions is rather different. He says that people will rejoice over the birth of John because he will be great before the Lord. That is exactly why we still celebrate his birth to this day. John the baptist was righteous and holy before God.
Zacharias was shocked by what he heard from the angel because his wife Elizabeth was too old to have a baby and even though he was a faithful man, he did not believe it. Sometimes even when we are faithful, we are not prepared for the amazing ways that God can work in our lives. Sometimes we set limits for what we think or imagine God is capable of doing. It’s a reminder for us to trust in God and to trust that we don’t and can’t fully understand Him. So the angel made Zacharias speechless until the day of John’s circumcision. That means that for nearly 9 months….Zacharias was mute and couldn’t talk. Some of the wives listening might be thinking that St. Elizabeth was a lucky woman as her husband couldn’t speak! But that was only for a time. After the birth of John, Zacharias finally wrote on a tablet and said “his name is John” we are told that his tongue was loosed and he was able to speak again. People were so amazed by this event that everywhere they were asking “What then will this child be?” If only we would also ask this about each child that is brought into the Church!
In the case of John the baptist we see someone very special. He was brought up by godly-minded parents and from a very early age he seems to have understood that he was dedicated to God, that he was special. He was special because of the way he prepared others to meet Jesus Christ. He taught others to prepare their hearts, to repent and purify themselves so that they would be ready to hear the teachings of Jesus and obey. Now another very important act that John did was to encourage some of his own disciples such as John the beloved, to leave him and follow Christ. That would have been very difficult to do if he was filled with an inflated ego or if he was self important. John the baptist had a humble attitude and it is clearly seen in one of his statements “He must increase, but I must decrease.” This is a statement that we can build our lives around.
The life of a Christian, no matter our age, is the life of allowing Jesus to increase in His influence over us and in our witness of Him to others…while we allow ourselves to decrease, to become less important and that is not easy. When we listen to the world we think that we are important or special because of who we are. In the Christian life we are special because of who we know and because of how we use that knowledge. One example of allowing myself to decrease and allowing the Lord to increase is that when I am speaking to a friend or co-worker who is lost or doesn’t know much about Christianity I shouldn’t be shy and think “What will this person think of me if I mention Jesus or the Church?” That is making myself the important one in the equation, making myself increase. Instead I might consider making Jesus increase at my own expense. I might think to myself “It doesn’t matter how I appear to others if I don’t appear loyal in the eyes of God.”
This is the attitude that John the baptist had. Sure he was talented, he was a charismatic figure, a great preacher and ascetic. But all those talents would be nothing, we would never talk about him at all if he didn’t love Jesus Christ more than he loved himself. May God bless us with hearts like the heart of St. John the forerunner. Lets pray that we allow ourselves and our desires to always be shrinking so that the Lord might always be growing larger in our lives, and glory be to God forever. AMEN.