Lectio Divina: Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
Birth of the Precursor of the Lord
1. Let us recollect ourselves in Prayer – Statio
Prayer of Cardinal Mercier to the Holy Spirit
Oh God, who has instructed Your faithful, enlightening their hearts with the light of the Holy Spirit, grant us that in the same Spirit we may have the desire to do good and to enjoy always His comfort.
May there be glory, adoration, love, and blessing to You Eternal Divine Spirit, who has brought to earth for us the Savior of our souls. And may there be glory and honor to His most adorable heart who loves us with an infinite love.
Oh Holy Spirit, soul of my soul, I adore You: enlighten me, guide me, strengthen me, console me, teach me what I should do, give me your orders.
I promise to submit myself to all that will happen to me, allowed by You: I ask only that I may know Your will.
2. Prayerful Reading of the Word - Lectio
From the Gospel according to Luke (1:57-66,80)
When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her. When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, "No. He will be called John." But they answered her, "There is no one among your relatives who has this name." So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, "John is his name," and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, "What, then, will this child be?" For surely the hand of the Lord was with him. The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.
3. Pondering the Word - Meditatio
3.1 Key to the Reading
This passage of the Gospel forms part of the account of the infancy of Jesus. In a particular way this text follows the scene of the visitation of Mary “in the house of Zechariah” (Lk 1:40) after the event of the Annunciation by the Angel, the messenger of the new creation.
In fact, the Annunciation inaugurates, in a joyful way, the fulfillment of God’s promise to His people (Lk 1:26-38). The joy of the new times, which filled Mary, now inundates the heart of Elizabeth. She rejoices with the announcement brought by Mary (Lk 1:41). Mary, on the other hand, “magnifies the Lord” (Lk 1:46) because He has worked great things in her, just as He has worked great marvels for His people in need of salvation.
The expression “the time came” reminds us that this reality does not only strike Elizabeth who is about to give birth, but also reveals something of God’s plan. In fact, Saint Paul tells us that when the completion of the time came, God sent His Only Begotten Son “born of a woman, born a subject of the Law, to redeem the subjects of the Law, so that we could receive adoption as children” of God (Gal 4:4).
In the Gospel, Jesus speaks about the completion of times, especially in the Gospel of John. Two of these times are the wedding at Cana (Jn 2:1-12) and the agony on the cross where Jesus exclaims that “all is fulfilled” (Jn 19:30). In the fulfillment of the times, Jesus inaugurates an era of salvation. The birth of John the Baptist inaugurates this time of salvation. In fact, at the arrival of the Messiah, he exults and leaps in the womb of his mother, Elizabeth (Lk 1:44). Later on, he will define himself as the friend of the bridegroom (Jesus) who exults and rejoices because of the event of the wedding with the bride, the Church (Jn 3:29).
The son will not be named after his father Zechariah, but John. Zechariah reminds us that God does not forget His people. In fact, his name means “God remembers”. His son will now be called “God remembers”, because God’s promises were being fulfilled. The prophetic mission of John has to indicate God’s mercy. In fact, he will be called Johanan, which is “God is mercy”. This mercy is manifested in the visit to the people, precisely “as he had promised by the mouth of His holy prophets of ancient times” (Lk 1:67-70). Thus, the name indicates the mission of the one about to be born. Zechariah will write the name of his son on a tablet so that all could see with admiration (Lk 1:63). This tablet is the echo of another inscription, written by Pilate to be fixed on the cross of Jesus. This inscription revealed the identity of the mission of the crucified: “Jesus, the Nazarene, King of the Jews” (Jn 19:19). This writing also provoked the admiration of those who were in Jerusalem for the feast.
John is the precursor of Jesus in everything. Since his birth and childhood he points out to Christ. “Who will this child be? He is “the voice which cries out in the desert” (Jn 1:23), impelling all to prepare the way of the Lord. He is not the Messiah (Jn 1:20), but he indicates this with his preaching, and above all, with his lifestyle of asceticism in the desert. Meanwhile, the child grew up and his spirit grew strong. He lived in the desert until the day he appeared openly to Israel” (Lk 1:80).
3.2 Questions to direct the meditation and the carrying out
- Do you or your community rejoice when God shows great mercy on another in the community, or do you grumble or even ignore it?
- John identifies himself as the friend of the bridegroom. According to you, what is the meaning of this image?
- John the Baptist is the one who prepares the way for the Lord. How is this relevant in our daily life?
Let us bless the Lord together with Zechariah (Lk 1:68-79)
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
for He has visited His people, He has set them free,
and He has established for us a saving power
in the House of His servant David,
just as He proclaimed,
by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient times,
that He would save us from our enemies
and from the hands of all those who hate us,
and show faithful love to our ancestors,
and so keep in mind His holy covenant.
This was the oath He swore to our father Abraham,
that He would grant us, free from fear,
to be delivered from the hands of our enemies,
to serve Him in holiness and uprightness in His presence,
all our days.
And you, little child,
you shall be called prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare a way for Him,
to give His people knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the faithful love of our God
in which the daybreak on high will visit us,
to give light to those who live in darkness
and the shadow dark as death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Let us all together adore the mercy and the goodness of God repeating in silence:
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be,
world without end. Amen