Memory of the Saints and the Prophets

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Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people acquired by God
to proclaim his marvellous works.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Luke 1,57-66

The time came for Elizabeth to have her child, and she gave birth to a son;

and when her neighbours and relations heard that the Lord had lavished on her his faithful love, they shared her joy.

Now it happened that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; they were going to call him Zechariah after his father,

but his mother spoke up. 'No,' she said, 'he is to be called John.'

They said to her, 'But no one in your family has that name,'

and made signs to his father to find out what he wanted him called.

The father asked for a writing-tablet and wrote, 'His name is John.' And they were all astonished.

At that instant his power of speech returned and he spoke and praised God.

All their neighbours were filled with awe and the whole affair was talked about throughout the hill country of Judaea.

All those who heard of it treasured it in their hearts. 'What will this child turn out to be?' they wondered. And indeed the hand of the Lord was with him.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You will be holy,
because I am holy, thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This Gospel makes us enter in the scene of another "miraculous" birth, another of God’s work, in order to introduce us to the mystery of the birth of Jesus. It is the birth of John, which in Hebrew means "God's favour." The Baptist, the last of the prophets, gathers in himself the whole prophetic tradition of the Old Testament that is all directed toward the mystery of Jesus. The letter to the Hebrews points out: "Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son" (Heb 1:1-2). We could say that the Baptist is the last "favour of God," the last of the prophets before the Lord speaks directly to us with his Word. The Evangelist Luke alludes to the birth of the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth. Their son is the fruit of their union, but the angel announced the child’s coming, and he is also the symbol of the intervention of God. Zechariah cannot retain the joy he feels at the miracle. He has recognized - after a moment of unbelief - that the Word of God is strong and effective. He has become a believer. He is no longer mute - his tongue is loosened, and he can speak. His heart is full of joy because of this son, the fruit of having listened to the Word of God. The people of Zechariah’s household were not the only ones to be astonished by John’s birth; the neighbours also joined in the excitement, as always happens when the Gospel is listened to and put into practice. The Gospel always creates a new climate and atmosphere among people; it starts by transforming the heart of the believer, and then it transforms the hearts of those around him or her. This is the way of changing the world that the Gospel points to us. It is not a superficial path; it is a deep and interior way that leads to heaven. Christmas means to welcome the Gospel into our hearts and start communicating it to others. Well aware of the dynamics of faith, Silesius, a seventeenth-century mystic, said, "If Christ were to be born a thousand times in Bethlehem but never in your heart, you would be lost for ever."