Scripture: 1st Reading: Malachi 3:1-4,23-24; Resp. Psalm: Psalm 24:4-5,8-9,10,14; Gospel: Luke 1:57-66
All the pieces of prophecies were falling into place. The predictions were coming to pass. The immediate events that were prophesied about as obligatory precedence to His coming were being manifested. Those who had eyes to see and minds to discern the divine handwriting on the wall were already in great expectation. With the accomplishment of the preceding signs, it was clear that His coming was imminent.
The last of that sign is the one we read about today: the birth of His precursor, John the Baptist. The birth of this last prophet of the Old Testament was already foreseen by prophet Malachi in today's First Reading. This is the messenger that would prepare the way before the Lord and the "angel of the covenant" who would suddenly enter His Temple, that is, be made manifest in His body.
This is the Elijah who would be sent before the great and terrible day of the Lord to "turn the hearts of fathers towards their children and the hearts of children towards their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a curse." His role was to reconcile the people with their God and to reconcile the people to one another.
He was the Elijah that would prepare the people for the coming of their Lord who would be "like the refiner’s fire and the fullers’ alkali. He will take his seat as refiner and purifier; he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and then they will make the offering to the Lord as it should be made." With His coming, "the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will then be welcomed by the Lord as in former days, as in the years of old."
John the Baptist, whose mysterious birth and whose circumcision and naming in today's gospel portended mysterious forebodings, fitted these roles. At his circumcision on the eighth day, his mother called him John, a name that was objected to by their relations since no one had ever been called that name before. However, in a twist that demonstrated the supernatural vocation of this child, his deaf and mute father Zechariah confirmed this name to the amazement, awe and astonishment of all.
These events, coupled with the immediate loosening of his father's power of speech, so filled the people with wonder about the kind of child he was going to be. From that moment, the hand of the Lord was with John the Baptist till the end of his life. As his birth brought great rejoicing to his parents, his family and by extension all Israel, the birth of his cousin would bring even greater rejoicing not only to Israel but to the whole world.
As we meditate today on these life changing events, let us "stand erect, hold our heads high, because our liberation is near at hand." John prepared the people for His coming. Let us allow His word to prepare us for His coming, so that when we eventually commemorate His coming, He will find us truly prepared to receive Him into our souls.
Let us pray: "Almighty ever-living God, as we see how the Nativity of your Son according to the flesh draws near, we pray that to us, your unworthy servants, mercy may flow from your Word, who chose to become flesh of the Virgin Mary and establish among us his dwelling, Jesus Christ our Lord." Amen.
May the Living Word of God find a true dwelling place within our hearts and souls today and always.