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Friday, December 23, 2011

The Naming of John the Baptist

From today's readings (Lk 1:57-66): The father asked for a writing tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ .. At that instant his power of speech returned and he spoke and praised God. All their neighbours were filled with awe and the whole affair was talked about throughout the hill country of Judaea. All those who heard of it treasured it in their hearts. ‘What will this child turn out to be?’ they wondered. And indeed the hand of the Lord was with him.
Circumcision of John the Baptist, engraving by Otto Elliger (source: Pitts Theology Library)    At the naming of John, Zechariah regained his speech. What's in a name? Isn't a name just a label, just another word? In our faith that revolves around the Word who is the Son of God, words are meaningful. And this name was given by God: .. your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. (Lk 1:13). When anointed by God, the name perhaps bears more than just a label. I think it carries with it a sending -- a mission. For John: And he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Eli'jah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared. (Lk 1:16-17)
   I have a name given to me at baptism, when I was born again of water and Spirit: Christ. "Through Isaac shall your descendants be named." .. the children of the promise are reckoned as descendants. (Rom 9:7). I have a three-fold mission, too: priest, prophet and king. As prophet, I must also turn hearts to the Lord, to prepare a way for the Lord into the hearts of my family and all whom I may reach as the Lord gives opportunity.
   And you, who were baptised into Christ, that also is your name, and behind it is the Christian mission. Take it up, and like John, the hand of the Lord will be with you.
Lord, make me know your ways.
  Lord, teach me your paths.
Make me walk in your truth, and teach me:
  for you are God my saviour.

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