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Lectionary 200. Naming of John the Baptist

December 22, 2013


Scripture: Lectionary 200. Monday, Dec.23. Malachai 3:1-4,23-24. Psalm 25: 4-5,8-9, 10.14. Luke 1:57-66:

Luke paints literary narratives with what are called diptychs—or a picture or scene on an altarpiece painted on or carved on two hinged tablets that can be folded.  This is what we see from famous artists who have captured many of the scenes of the Infancy Narratives.  Luke does this with his writings that unfold and open like a diptych for the Annunciation of the births of John the Baptist and Jesus;  he does it with the Magnificat and the Benedictus of Mary and Zechariah respectively.  I think he does it with the two couples of Zechariah and Elizabeth and then Mary and Joseph in the naming of the two babies to be born of them.

This is easily seen in Matthew’s Gospel where Joseph is to name the child Jesus and in Luke it is Mary.  Today it is both Zechariah and first Elizabeth who agree on the name John for their son.  Elizabeth says, “John is his name.” Then Zechariah who is unable to speak asks for a tablet upon which he confirms what his wife said.  The name is perfect for it means “God has been gracious.” All this takes place at the circumcision and the naming of their baby. Immediately, after naming the child, Zechariah is released from his inability to speak and praises God and breaks into the most beautiful of canticles for Morning Prayer, the Benedictus.

The graciousness of God is seen in these persons and we,too, experience the surprising graces of God in so many things that occur in our lives.  We need to be aware of them and thank God as did the holy persons mentioned in Matthew’s and Luke’s Infancy Gospels.

Do you and I think about these surprise graces of God each day?  They are often among the little things that make us laugh or smile. Then there are the big ones like a birth into our family or a person entering the religious life or the priesthood.  These are all real living graces that come in our lives and offer us the opportunity to thank God for them.  Do we thank God often?  We should.

We are especially thankful for the gift of Jesus that has surprised all of us that God should grace us with a child born for all of us and for each of us.  He is the greatest gift we receive at this time of year at Christmas as we commemorate his birth in time.  Jesus, the Son of God has become the Son of Mary for the salvation of all humankind.

We therefore join Elizabeth and Zechariah who agreed on the name of their son, John. We thank God for the Baptist’s prophetic role during this Advent and now we thank God for Jesus whose name was given by an angel to Joseph in a revelatory and decisive dream and to Mary by Gabriel the archangel.  All in our life is grace because of Jesus. Amen.


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