Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

Although I usually post some thoughts and reflection about what is in that day’s Gospel reading, I wanted to share a few things this morning about what is not in today’s Gospel passage.

The Vigil Mass Gospel gives us the announcement of the conception of John the Baptist to his father Zechariah in the Temple.  An angel appeared to Zechariah while he was serving in the Temple.  The Gospel at the Mass during the day gives us the story of the birth of John the Baptist.  In the Temple, Zechariah had been made mute.  When he wrote out the name of his son in today’s passage, his voice was restored. 

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Zechariah then prophesied about his son and about the coming Savior.  For the sake of brevity, this part was not included in today’s Gospel reading.  It is, nonetheless, an especially important passage that is known as the Canticle of Zechariah.  For those who pray the Divine Office, or the Liturgy of the Hours, it is a part of every Morning Prayer (or Lauds, as it was traditionally known). 

Starting with praise and thanksgiving to God, Zechariah rejoices in the coming Savior before addressing his newborn son.  He tells him that he will be “a prophet of the Most High.”  Then, he says that he will “give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God by which the daybreak from on high will visit us to shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

The Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son comes to us as Jesus Christ.  He is the Son of the Most High.  He is the “daybreak from on high.”  His light will shine on those in the darkness.  It will guide our path that returns us to God.

Like John the Baptist, we are called to be a prophet of the Most High.  We help lead people to salvation through repentance and the forgiveness of sins.  Of course, for those fallen away, the Sacrament of Reconciliation serves as the gateway to their return.  Through this sacrament, we can know of our salvation through the forgiveness of our sins.

Am I reaching out to those who have fallen away?  Am I “a prophet of the Most High” in my words and deeds?  Have I invited those fallen away to return through the sacrament of God’s great mercy, the Sacrament of Reconciliation?