Memory of the Poor

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The Eastern and Western Churches remember the birth of John the Baptist, the “greatest of those born of women,” who prepared the way for the Lord.

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Luke 1, 57-66.80

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.

Meanwhile the child grew up and his spirit grew strong. And he lived in the desert until the day he appeared openly to Israel.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Today the Church celebrates the birth of John the Baptist, the precursor to Christ. Besides Jesus, John is the only character in the New Testament whose birth is remembered. It is a very ancient feast in the Church. In a Byzantine iconostasis, Mary and John are depicted alongside the central door, Christ, inviting the faithful to turn their eyes towards Jesus. John was born to show men and women the way that leads to Jesus. He is even venerated in Islam, and his relics are kept in the Umayyad mosque in Damascus. In the fourth century, when Jesus’ date of birth was established at the end of December, that of the Baptist was moved to the end of June as if to respect the chronology of the Gospel that places John’s birthday six months before Jesus’ birth. John, son of the priest Zechariah and of Elizabeth, is, in truth, fruit of God’s promise; he proclaims the messianic time in which the barren woman becomes mother of children and the tongue of the mute unloosens in praise. The Gospel shows that before the birth of the son announced to him by the angel, Zechariah cannot contain his joy. After a moment of unbelief Zechariah acknowledged that the word of God is strong and powerful. He became a believer and was mute no more. His tongue loosens and he is able to speak. His heart is full of joy for this son, fruit of the Word of God. John’s birth provokes wonder not only in Zechariah’s household but also among neighbours, as it happens every time the Gospel is heard and put into practice. The Gospel always creates a new atmosphere among people. Zechariah cannot contain his joy and burst into a joyful song for the little John, the well-known song of the Benedictus. Zechariah sings in it that John “will go before the Lord to prepare his ways.” Zechariah’s joy can be also ours. It is revealed every time men and women are able to welcome the Gospel. Then, people open to love and leave the shadow of death, moving their feet into the way of peace.