What comes to mind when you think of John the Baptist? From where did you leann it?
The majority of what I know comes from the scripture and songs used during the second and third weeks of advent. A smaller portion comes from the play “Godspel”. We meet Jesus’ older cousin in the third chapter of Luke’s gospel. John tells the people to prepare the way of the Lord while preaching a message of repentance and baptizing in the Jordan. He wears a coat made of camels hair held closed by a leather belt. He eats locusts and wild honey, ew! (Come on, that’s what everyone says.)
Today’s gospel is taken from earlier in Luke’s gospel (Luke 1:57-66, 80.) The people have gathered for the naming of Elizabeth and Zechariah’s son. In what would seem a confusing break with tradition Zechariah affirms that the boys name will not come from his earthly family (the descendants of Levi.) Instead he will be called by the name God has chosen and shared with Zechariah via the Angel Gabriel. To learn more about this, read the first part of this chapter which is conveniently located a few pages back in the readings for The Solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist Vigil.
It is impossible to touch on all of the rich details of this story in one article. There is the similarity between John’s parents (Zechariah and Elizabeth) and Isaac (Abraham and Sarah.) There is the parallel of the Angel Gabriel coming to Zechariah like he came to the Blessed Mother at the Annunciation. There is also the irony of the father of God’s chosen messenger (Zechariah) being left speechless after the Angel’s visit.
These are some of the things we will look into in this today’s Sunday Scripture Series at 10:45 a.m. You’ll find more information about this in the bulletin. (Yes, that was a shameless plug.)
The words of today’s prelude are from the verses directly following today’s gospel. They are known as “The Canticle (song) of Zechariah.” These words have been set in a modern composition written by Steve Angrisano and Curtis Stephan: “Luke 1: Benedictus” (#637).
The title of our processional hymn is a poetic description of John the Baptist “The Great Forerunner of the Morn” (#717). The text was written by the St. Venerable Bede, an English, Benedictine Monk who lived from 672-735 and was honored as a Doctor of the Church in 1899. The verses are a perfect way to enter into the celebration of this Solemnity. I hope you will see how the other songs connect with John the Baptist and/or Advent.
The following paragraph is helpful in explaining the significance of John the Baptist while maintaining an understanding of how his significance is based on the one to whom he points - Jesus.
The greatness of John, his pivotal place in the history of salvation, is seen in the great emphasis Luke gives to the announcement of his birth and the event itself—both made prominently parallel to the same occurrences in the life of Jesus. John attracted countless people to the banks of the Jordan, and it occurred to some people that he might be the Messiah. But he constantly deferred to Jesus, even to sending away some of his followers to become the first disciples of Jesus.
Taken from The U.S. Council of Bishops Website
Blessed to be in ministry at St. Mary’s,