of St. John
our reflection on today’s gospel passage from Luke with an overview.
Luke often pairs stories: if he tells a story of a man, he will
follow it with one about a woman. For example, Jesus tells the
parable of the man who plants a mustard seed and then next, of a
woman who mixes yeast and flour (13:18-21). Again, a man searches
for lost sheep, and that story is followed by a woman’s search for a
lost coin (15:1-10).
Luke’s gospel also
defends and reassures women. Widows are mentioned frequently in this gospel.
We moderns might not notice these details, but in Jesus’ time men dominated
society, women and children were their subjects. (Things are not quite as
“modern” as we think in our world, are they? For example, in our “advanced
society” a woman still makes 74cents to a man’s dollar, for doing the same
work.) In fact, Luke’s gospel doesn’t depict, or support women’s full
equality with men. For example, most of the women do not speak in the
narratives. Luke seems to think a woman’s role should be that of listener –
hearing and reflecting on the word of God.
today’s gospel, is an exception to Luke’s depiction of silent women. So is
the previous account of the Visitation, Mary’s visit to the aged and
pregnant Elizabeth. Both women have much to say (1:39 ff).
Zechariah were advanced in age and were childless. Barrenness would be
blamed on the woman (1:7). And more. It was seen as a punishment for sin.
But Luke insists both Zachariah and Elizabeth were “righteous.” We are being
prepared for something: a righteous couple without a child, calls forth
action from God. And God comes through. Elizabeth states what God has done:
“In these days the Lord is acting on my behalf. God has seen fit to remove
my reproach among people” (1:25). God does for Elizabeth what God has done
throughout the Bible: comes to deliver a powerless people in need. God
intervenes to take away her disgrace and makes Elizabeth fruitful – as God
had done for Sarah, Hannah, Rachel and other remarkable women in Israel’s
Elizabeth has given
birth and eight days later the child is to be circumcised. The roots of our
story are in the Jewish experience of their covenant with God. God was at
work in the past and is active in the events that are about to happen. God,
once again, is coming to rescue the people and set them free.
Among African and
Middle Eastern people, the naming ceremony is an important and celebratory
affair. The baby’s name reflects the family history and status. That’s what
the people at John’s circumcision were expecting: the child should be named
Zechariah, after his father, according to custom. Perhaps one day the child
would follow in his father’s footsteps and be a priest in the Temple. But
God is interrupting people’s normal expectations and is doing something
entirely new – as is God’s way.
the naming ritual to announce, “No. He will be called John.” It is a name
that speaks of her and Zechariah’s experience. John means, “God has given
grace,” (or, “God has been gracious”). It is not just the child’s name, is
it? “God has given grace” sums up the entire gospel story; indeed the story
of the Bible. God works among humans and once again brings salvation to the
people. This child, “God has given grace,” will be a prophetic voice
announcing the Messiah’s arrival. He will, “go before the Lord to prepare
God’s way” (1:76).
Did those who were
with Elizabeth, Zechariah and their new baby, know what the future would
bring? No, but they would be alert enough to realize God was stirring and
they should keep their eyes and ears open to see what God would do next.
Their lives and the future of Israel were in God’s hands and God had begun a
good work among them. John’s birth was just the beginning, but it certainly
held out a great promise for them and for all people!
Biblical names have
significance and help us interpret what is happening. As we said, John
means, “God is gracious.” Elizabeth means, “oath of God” – God is fulfilling
the promises God made of old. Zechariah means, “Lord remembers” – Israel is
in a low point of its history, but God has not forgotten her. Those names
apply to our present as well. How do you interpret them for yourself, our
church and our world?
For example: What
ways do I experience a “gracious God” in my community of faith and in my
life in the world? What “promise” do I hear from these scriptures? What hope
does God’s promise hold out to me now? Do I trust that God will “remember”
me and not leave me to face anything on my own?
There was little
fanfare in John’s birth. To those who knew the family something
extraordinary had happened. “All who heard these things took them to heart,
saying, ‘What, then, will this child be?’” But outside their circle, no one
else knew of the events. Later, John’s cousin, Jesus, will be born in a
manager. God is showing great mercy to God’s people, but in inconspicuous
ways. Have you noticed that in your own life? Believers are given the wisdom
to look for God’s hand working in seeming-ordinary events: the birth of a
child; graduation from high school; marriage; a new job; a surprise visit
from a loved one; a simple Eucharist, etc.
Click here for a
link to this Sunday’s readings:
“Grace pours all beauty into the soul.”
JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD
“Hear me, O coastlands, listen, O distant peoples.”Isaiah 49:1
I think most
Catholics do not realize the vast influence that the prophets have
contributed to advance social justice in the world, from ancient times to
now. Today’s readings celebrate the call of the prophet through the life of
St. John the Baptist, a call that we share by our baptism. So let us examine
the role of the prophet.
Pope Francis characterizes the prophet in this way, “A prophet is someone
who listens to the words of God, who reads the spirit of the times, and who
knows how to move forward towards the future. True prophets hold within
themselves three different moments: past, present, and future. They keep the
promise of God alive, they see the suffering of their people, and they bring
us the strength to look ahead.” It is in reading the signs of the times and
urging changes to a society’s trajectory back to the way of God that the
prophet is often chastised and berated. People get stuck in their ways,
especially if they have a comfortable life, and do not appreciate being
challenged to change their personal worldview. This has happened to me when
I have tried to educate others about the Israel/Palestine conflict.
Since we are all called to the role of prophet, how do we navigate the
shifts occurring in the world and church today in a prophetic manner? Sr.
Pat Ferrell, a Sister of St. Francis and past president of the Leadership
Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), offers the following six tools:
1. Contemplation--think and pray about an injustice you are witnessing, how
would God respond?
2. Use of the
prophetic voice--how best can you respond to an injustice--for some it is
through voice or writing or through joining with others to make a
demand--what gifts has God given you?
3. Solidarity with
the marginalized--a prophet always acts as a healer to those who are injured
by social norms that are not in keeping with God’s view of things
prophet finds support in others who are also working to make a better world
responses--use Jesus as your model
6. Capacity to live
in joyful hope--the prophet sees the endgame--the world God envisions, not
the world as it is.
Most of all, we are called to be instruments of God’s love, just like the
---Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS
Director of Social
Holy Name of Jesus
Cathedral, Raleigh, NC
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for
persons on the run. “Faith Book” is also brief enough to be posted
in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s Gospel reading:
They were going to call the child Zechariah, after his father,
but his mother said in reply,
“No. He will be called John.”
Biblical names have significance and help us interpret what is happening.
John means, “God is gracious.” Elizabeth means, “oath of God” – God is
fulfilling the promises God made of old. Zechariah means, “Lord remembers” –
Israel is in a low point of its history, but God has not forgotten her.
So we ask ourselves:
What ways do I
experience a “gracious God” in my community of faith and in my life in
do I hear from these scriptures?
Do I trust that
God will “remember” me and not leave me to face anything on my own?
POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES
“One has to
strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an inhuman
measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form it is
carried out." ---Pope Francis
Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison
system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and
addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them
to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them
you heard about them through North Carolina’s, “People of Faith
Against the Death Penalty.” If the inmate responds you might
consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
Johnny S. Parker
#0311936 (On death row since 3/24/97)
Hedgepath #0176701 (7/3/97)
Leroy M. Mann
4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4285
For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the
Catholic Mobilizing Network:
Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death
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