Homily Nativity of John the Baptist- Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings Vigil and Day: Jer 1:4-10; Ps 71:1-4a, 5-6ab, 15ab and 17; 1 Pt 1:8-12 and Luke 1:5-17; Isa 49:1-6; Acts 13;22-26 and Luke 1:57-66,80
God’s Will and Light to the Nations
Today we celebrate the Birth of John the Baptist, the last but not the least prophets in the OT. From Scriptures, what are remarkable in today’s celebration are not just the humility of John the Baptist, and the virtues of his parents Zechariah and Elizabeth, but how God through his prophetic promises, prepares each of us for salvation. It is about doing God’s will and how we respond to God’s invitation to imitate St. John and his parents, in prayer by allowing ourselves to be made lights of the present world, nations and neighborhoods.
This goes back to Prophets before John the Baptist, who spoke god's words of love, comfort and hope to Israel through prophet- servants like Isaiah and Jeremiah. God called Isaiah from his mother’s womb, gave him his name and prepared him for Israel. God made of Isaiah a sharp-edge sword and concealed him in the shadow of his hand. He made him a polished arrow to hunt for salvation, and a light to all nations (Isa 49:1-6). Same for Jeremiah, God says, “before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you to the nations I appointed you” (Jer 1:4-10).
God’s covenants of love endures for ever. It’s fulfilled in Christ heralded by John whom we celebrate today. Evangelist Luke affirms this in the second reading, when he says, “God raised up David as King of him God testified. I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will carry out my every wish. From this man’s descendants God, according to his promise, has brought to Israel a savior, Jesus (Acts 13:22-26).
Zechariah and Elizabeth John’s parents, as we have seen in the Gospel, had their own difficulties and challenges, whether to do God’s will or their will. They were barren for years. And we know the challenges that come with this especially for barren parents of ancient times who desired children. After his birth his name wasn’t going to be Zechariah according to family tradition, and “will” but “John” as earlier promised by the Lord in Luke 1:5-17, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John, and you will have joy and gladness… he will drink neither wine nor strong drink and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit”--- and will prepare Israel before the Lord.”
Besides relating the challenges of Zechariah and Elizabeth to our daily challenges, we can imitate John and Israel’s prophets in our daily lives. John was humble. Like Isaiah and Jeremiah it wasn’t all about himself. Think of the incident of the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth. John leapt, saluted Christ while in his mother’s womb. He was always humble. Whenever there was tension between his disciples and that of Christ (John’s Gospel) he preached and instructed his disciples publicly that he wasn’t the Messiah. Rather, he was not even worthy to unstrapped the sandals of the he coming Messiah after him. He withstood the pressure of the Pharisees and the challenges of Herod and Herodias (Mark 6:18). Again, like Isaiah and Jeremiah he was a light to the nations. This is who we are called to be. John teaches us today to be God’s mouth piece, light to the nations, charitable, and hunters for salvation of souls in our communities and neighborhoods. And relying always in God's Will.