My Dear Sisters and Brothers! On this Solemnity of the Nativity of St John the Baptist we are given a Gospel passage in which we meet Zachariah. He was mute. It was the outcome of that mysterious event which took place in the Jerusalem Temple when Zachariah didn’t believe Archangel Gabriel promising him the birth of a son. The Archangel then said: ‘Listen! Since you have not believed my words, which will come true at their appointed time, you will be silenced and have no power of speech until this has happened.’ Did the Archangel punish Zachariah for disbelieving? Not at all. The archangel was merciful and provided the old man with an opportunity to grow in faith. Unable to talk Zachariah became a listener and reflector. St Paul in the Letter to the Romans wrote: ‘Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.’ During the nine months when he was voiceless Zachariah reflected on what was told him in the Temple. When his son was born and was to be named, his father proved his faith by insisting on doing God’s will and naming the little boy John. The joy which he must have had at the birth of his firstborn didn’t blind him but led him to recognising the unfolding plan of salvation for all people. This little boy who gave so much joy to Elizabeth and Zachariah, even before he had a chance to say a word, was telling people that ‘God is gracious’ as that what the name John means.
How do we know that God is gracious to us? Because ‘God has raised up for Israel (and for us too) one of David’s descendants, Jesus, as Saviour, whose coming was heralded by John.’ Do you know what today’s Solemnity means? That in six months we will have Christmas. When John was born Mary, who was assisting Elizabeth at that time, was pregnant for three months. This little network of relatives was first of many people longing for Jesus. When John was born they believed that the Saviour was coming too.
We know that the Saviour has come, don’t we? But do we believe in the way that our burning desire is about doing the will of God?
Recently we have been warned by Police about the danger of the growing trend of wearing headphones and earplugs when we walk the streets, when we cycle or when we drive as we become oblivious to what is happening around us. People have been killed in traffic accidents because they wore headphones. We can see in it a prophecy for us: headphones and earplugs enable us to make a selection of whom and what we hear. In the domain of the life of faith we can become also selective to what we hear, maybe because we like certain things, maybe because certain things don’t challenge us, maybe because it is easier. However is it beneficial to us when we choose to listen only to the things which please us?
Headphones provide us with bombarding sounds and words. When God speaks to us he gives us space to reflect and absorb the message. If you think that God at times is absent from your life it is not true. He gives you space to reflect and absorb the message he has already communicated to you. That’s why Christians attentively listening to the voice of God will never be oblivious to what is happening around them but they will be conscious decision makers in the light of faith.