Wednesday, December 23, 2015 ~ Fourth Week in the Season of Advent
Saint John of Kanty, Priest
Holy Gospel: Luke 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.”
Meditation: We can see that Elizabeth is firm in her faith and determined to see that God be glorified through this child. The name “John” means “the Lord is gracious.” In the birth of John the Baptist and in the birth of Jesus the Messiah we see the grace and favor of God breaking forth into a world broken by sin, corruption, and death – a world lost without hope. The Old Testament prophets foretold the return of the prophet Elijah (Malachi 3:1, and 4:5) who would announce the coming of the Messiah – the Savior and Ruler of the earth. John the Baptist fulfills the role of Elijah (Matthew 11:13-14). His miraculous birth shows the mercy and favor of God in preparing his people for the coming of its Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. When God acts to save us he graciously fills us with his Holy Spirit and makes our faith come alive to his promises. When we respond to his word with trust the Lord fills us with the joy of the Holy Spirit and renews our hope and gratitude for the mercy and gift of new life and salvation in Jesus Christ.
Prayer: Grant, we pray, almighty God, that by the example of the Priest Saint John of Kanty we may advance in knowledge of holy things and by showing compassion to all, may gain forgiveness in Your sight. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Contemplation: Saint Ephrem of Syria had this to day about the parallels between John the Baptist and Jesus: “The elderly Elizabeth gave birth to the last of the prophets, and Mary, a young girl, to the Lord of the angels. The daughter of Aaron gave birth to the voice in the desert (Isaiah 63:9), but the daughter of David to the strong God of the earth. The barren one gave birth to him who remits sins, but the Virgin gave birth to him who takes them away (John 1:29). Elizabeth gave birth to him who reconciled people through repentance, but Mary gave birth to him who purified the lands of uncleanness. The elder one lit a lamp in the house of Jacob, his father, for this lamp itself was John (John 5:35), while the younger one lit the Sun of Justice (Malachi 4:2) for all the nations. The angel announced to Zechariah, so that the slain one would proclaim the crucified one and that the hated one would proclaim the envied one. He who was to baptize with water would proclaim him who would baptize with fire and with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11). The light, which was not obscure, would proclaim the Sun of Justice. The one filled with the Spirit would proclaim concerning him who gives the Spirit. The priest calling with the trumpet would proclaim concerning the one who is to come at the sound of the trumpet at the end. The voice would proclaim concerning the Word, and the one who saw the dove would proclaim concerning him upon whom the dove rested, like the lightning before the thunder” (excerpted from Commentary on Tatian’s Diatessaron, 1.31).