23 December – Gospel


Commentary on  Luke 1:57-66

GOSPEL

As we approach the day of Jesus’ birth, the Gospel today speaks of the birth of John the Baptist.  It is a day of particular joy for Elizabeth as her shame is wiped out.  She can now stand tall in the presence of her family and neighbours.  “Her neighbours and kinsfolk heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her and they rejoiced with her.”

In accordance with custom, the boy is to be circumcised on the eighth day and a name given to him.  Everyone presumes he will be given the name of his father but Elizabeth says his name is to be John.  People protested: “There is no one in your family with that name.”  Zechariah, the father, is consulted.  Since his dialogue with the angel he cannot speak so he is given a tablet on which to write.  Simply he states: “His name is John.”  And with that his tongue was loosed and he could speak and praise God.

This incident became the talk of the whole district and people began to ask each other, “What then will this child be?”  They knew that these unusual happenings all pointed to a special calling for the child.

The circumstances of the birth and circumcision of the child emphasise John’s incorporation into the people of Israel.  We will find the same emphasis with Jesus. 

Luke shows that those who play crucial roles in the inauguration of Christianity to be wholly a part of the people of Israel. At the end of the Acts of the Apostles, he will argue that Christianity is the direct descendant of Pharisaic Judaism” (New American Bible, loc. cit.; cf. Acts 21:20; 22:3; 23:6-9; 24:14-16; 26:2-8, 22-23).

I too can ask the same question about myself: “What then am I called to be?”  No matter what age I am there is still life ahead of me, be it long or short.  What is my destiny?  What does God want of me?  What contributions can I make to other people’s lives?  God has expectations of me, based on the gifts he has given to me.  Let me reflect on what they might be and how I can make good use of them. 

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