THE JOY, WONDER, AND THE DIVINE PURPOSE OF THE BIRTH OF EVERY CHILD
First Reading: Isaiah 49:1-6
Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 138(139):1-3,13-15
Second Reading: Acts 13:22-26
Gospel Reading: Luke 1:57-66,80
Once upon a time, in the vast and enchanting landscapes of an African savannah where the people lived in harmony with nature, a wise elder gathered the villagers nestled amidst lush greenery illumined by the moonlight before a roaring fire and shared a story that has been etched in the fabric of their culture. It was the story of a courageous lioness who ruled the animal kingdom after the death of her husband, leaving her pregnant. She was strong and noble, feared by all creatures. her golden mane flowing like rivers of fire as she commanded the respect of all creatures great and small. But in the heart of this fearsome queen, a miraculous transformation occurred on the day of her labour. Reading through this timeless poetic tale, woven into the tapestry of ancient wisdom that resonates with the heartbeat of humanity, my attention was drawn to the scene surrounding the birth of her cub which would be the focus of our reflection today. In summary, she gave birth to a tiny, fragile lion cub, and the world stood still in awe. From the mightiest elephant to the tiniest hummingbird, all creatures paused in reverence, sensing the divine significance of this birth, which made them gather together around the scene to pay homage and allegiance. It was as if the very fabric of creation quivered with anticipation, for the birth of this cub signified hope, the dawn of a new era, and a divine calling. As we reflect on the solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, this African tale resonates deeply within us. Today, we gather to celebrate the birth of another child, not just any child, but a child who carried within him the destiny to fulfill a divine purpose. St. John the Baptist, born into this world, heralded the dawn of a new era, the coming of the long-awaited Messiah, Jesus Christ. With the birth of John the Baptist, we are called to reflect on the joy, wonder, and divine purpose of the birth of every child.
In the First Reading from the book of Isaiah (Isaiah 49:1-6), we hear the prophetic words that foretell the mission of John the Baptist. The prophet Isaiah describes how God called him from his mother’s womb, even before his birth, to be a servant and a light to the nations, appointed to bring salvation to the ends of the earth. In the same way, the birth of the lion cub in the African tale brought a message of hope and transformation, so too did the birth of St. John the Baptist carry a divine message that echoed across generations, preparing the way for the salvation of all humanity. This passage emphasizes the intimate relationship between God and His chosen servant, the special purpose for which he was set apart. It reveals that John’s life was not a random occurrence but part of God’s divine plan—a plan that was woven into the fabric of creation itself, little wonder we celebrate the solemnity of his birth, something we rarely commemorate in the Church. Needless to say, we only commemorate the death of all saints as the day of their triumphant entrance into the heavenly glory but only celebrate the birth of three great figures in the Church’s liturgical calendar – St. John the Baptist, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
As Isaiah speaks of his vocation even from his mother’s womb, even before his birth, he drives home a sentiment of God’s intimate knowledge of him. This helps us understand better the Responsorial Psalm (138:1-3,13-15) of the day, which echoes this sentiment of God’s intimate knowledge of us, as the psalmist proclaims, “You have formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.” It is a beautiful reflection on the depth of God’s love and His intricate involvement in every aspect of our existence. The tale of the lion cub echoes this truth, as the birth of the cub signified a profound connection to the heart of creation. Likewise, St. John the Baptist, fearfully and wonderfully made by God, was destined to fulfill his sacred purpose, his life intricately woven into the divine tapestry of salvation. Just as God knew and formed John the Baptist in his mother’s womb, He knows each one of us intimately and has a purpose for our lives.
Turning to the second reading from the Acts of the Apostles (13:22-26), we encounter St. Paul’s proclamation of the lineage of King David, a lineage that would lead to the birth of Jesus Christ. Just as the birth of the lion cub in the African tale signaled a new era, the birth of St. John marked a turning point in salvation history. St. Paul reminds us that God’s plan unfolds through generations, weaving together the threads of prophecy and fulfillment, leading ultimately to the birth of the Saviour. The reading also emphasizes that John saw himself as unworthy to untie the sandals of the One who was to come after him. His humility and recognition of the greatness of Jesus serve as a powerful reminder for us to humbly acknowledge our own unworthiness before the Lord and to prepare our hearts for His coming.
And in a more realistic and concrete experience, in today’s Gospel (Luke 1:57-66,80), we encounter the joyous account of the birth and naming of John the Baptist. The angel Gabriel had appeared to Zechariah, John’s father, announcing that he and his wife, Elizabeth, would conceive a son in their old age. The joy and wonder that surround this event reverberate with the echoes of the African tale. The aged parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah, bring forth a child despite the barrenness of their years, and the name “John” is proclaimed, contrary to expectation. The child’s name resonates with divine significance, a name chosen by God Himself. As in the tale of the lion cub, the birth of John the Baptist marks a pivotal moment, where heaven and earth converge in anticipation of the Messiah’s arrival. This birth was a fulfillment of God’s plan, and it brought great joy and wonder to all who heard of it.
Today’s readings present us with profound lessons that resonate with our own lives as disciples of Christ. Like John the Baptist, we too are called to be servants of God, to shine His light in the world, and to prepare the way for the coming of Jesus into the hearts of others. We are reminded of the unique and personal relationship we have with our Heavenly Father, who knows us intimately and has a purpose for each one of us. Just as John humbly recognized his place in relation to Jesus, we too must humbly acknowledge our dependence on Him and seek to decrease so that Christ may increase in our lives. As we reflect on the tale of the lion cub and the birth of St. John the Baptist, we are called to recognize the sacredness of every child born into this world. Just as the birth of the lion cub brought hope and transformation to the animal kingdom, so too does the birth of every child bring the potential for renewal and salvation to our human family. May we embrace the miracle of birth with reverence and awe, cherishing each child as a gift from God, endowed with a unique purpose and destiny, and recalling our mission to protect the unborn in the womb. Let us, like the wise villagers in the African tale, recognize the significance of the birth of St. John the Baptist and the birth of every child as an invitation to nurture hope, cultivate love, and prepare the way for Christ in our hearts and in our world.
As we celebrate the solemnity of Saint John the Baptist, let us reflect on the example he set for us—his unwavering faith, his humility, and his dedication to preparing the way for the Lord. May we respond to God’s call in our own lives, knowing that He has formed us and has a purpose for us. Let us be courageous in proclaiming the truth, pointing others to Christ, and preparing the way for His coming into their lives. May the example of St. John the Baptist, who fulfilled his divine calling with unwavering devotion, inspire us to embrace our own unique purpose, to be heralds of hope and bearers of God’s light in a world longing for salvation.
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© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Loreto, Vila Medeiros, São Paulo.
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PS: Have you prayed your Rosary today?