John, the cousin of our Lord

Isn’t it interesting that we find it very easy to think of Jesus as an infant in swaddling clothes or our savior on the cross but almost never anything else? The same is true for John the Baptist. When we picture him, we probably see this scruffy looking guy with knotted hair, and tangled beard and animal skins for clothes.

There are two things that I feel today’s gospel should challenge for us. The first is the similarities of their mother’s stories and the second is the two famous times that these two met.

The similarities of their mothers’ stories are striking, the involvement of an angel, a seemingly impossible conception and the significance of the presentation of their children at the temple. We know the story of Jesus, Anna and Simeon. That had to be disquieting for the parents, to say the least. But also, the story of John’s parents in the temple.

“When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father,
but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.” But they answered her,
“There is no one among your relatives who has this name.”

So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,”
The name of John is derived from the Yohanan meaning the grace of God. If there was a more perfect name for anyone, I cannot imagine it.
The place where these two stories came together for the first time was when both women were pregnant and Mary came to visit. In Luke 1: 41 – 45 scripture says: When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

That was one interesting playdate. Mary shows up carrying Jesus and John “leaps for joy”.

We are only a few days away from the longest day of the year and we have a reading that reminds of Christmas time. The birth of an infant through the help of an angel. Sort of wants you to break out in a verse of Hark the herald angels sing or the first Noel. But that was probably not the point. This is a story of how everything is possible through that help of God.

Hear me, O coastlands,
listen, O distant peoples.
The LORD called me from birth,
from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.
He made of me a sharp-edged sword
and concealed me in the shadow of his arm.
He made me a polished arrow,
in his quiver he hid me
The second significant meeting was on the banks of the Jordan River. In the second reading from the Acts, John says, “John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel; and as John was completing his course, he would say, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. Behold, one is coming after me;
I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.”

John the Baptist was a voice calling out in the dessert and when he got his big moment, he made holy all of the water of the world through one simple act. What is it that He has in store for us? What one simple acts does He have planned for us. He know us down to the smallest strand of hair on our head, what is He planning.

O LORD, you have probed me, you know me:
you know when I sit and when I stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.

I praise you Lord, for I am wonderfully made

LK 1:57-66

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child
she gave birth to a son.
Her neighbors and relatives heard
that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her,
and they rejoiced with her.
When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child,
they were going to call him Zechariah after his father,
but his mother said in reply,
“No. He will be called John.”
But they answered her,
“There is no one among your relatives who has this name.”
So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.
He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,”
and all were amazed.
Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed,
and he spoke blessing God.
Then fear came upon all their neighbors,
and all these matters were discussed
throughout the hill country of Judea.
All who heard these things took them to heart, saying,
“What, then, will this child be?”
For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.
The child grew and became strong in spirit,
and he was in the desert until the day
of his manifestation to Israel.

June 20, 2022

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