Lagura: John the Baptist: a special child, a mighty voice

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By Fr. Flor Lagura, SVD

In the service of the Word

Saturday, December 8, 2012


BEING advanced in years Zechariah and Elizabeth went through really anxious moments. What kind of child would their son be? Would he be physically, mentally handicapped as many a child of elderly parents are rumored to be? Besides, tongues wagged when women in their place heard that the couple would finally have a child when both husband and wife were considered too old. To shield her elderly cousin from the village gossips Mary went to her side. Mary also did that to help her cousin Elizabeth in preparing herself for her first-born: a task rendered doubly difficult since Elizabeth was no longer a young woman.

But God, as the name “John” signifies, was gracious to her. Shortly after the naming of the child, not Ben-Zechariah as would have been customary, but John, “God proved to be truly gracious to them.”

The next scene finds the young John living in the wilderness. Amid the hostile environment where the days were fiercely hot and the nights bitterly cold, where prowling wolves and ferocious lions and bears always posed grave threats to his life, the young John thrived. In the silence of the wilderness where he had ample time to listen to the voice of the Lord John the Baptist later on came out proclaiming with power and conviction that as Isaiah had earlier prophesied, he would be “a voice of one crying in the wilderness: prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”(Isaiah 40:3)

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Many of John the Baptist’s listeners understood these words to refer to the practice of having the people living in the towns or villages through which a royalty would pass fix the road, make it smooth and clean for the coming of the important personage.

By the grace of God some understood these very same words to signify the coming of the longed-for Messiah. Finally Israel would have its Savior, and the people would have to prepare accordingly.

A deeper significance, however, lies in these words. The promised Savior would come along an imperfect road, to an imperfect, even sinful people, living in an imperfect world. For example, John the Baptist’s father was a good man of the priestly race. However, his faith wavered when God finally answered his prayers for a son.

The people of Israel to whom God made the promise of a Redeemer was politically insignificant compared to the mighty kingdoms in those times. And religiously speaking Israel proved unsteady in her promise and unfaithful to the Covenant she had entered into with God. God, however, still came, and instead of scolding, invited the people of Israel instead to prepare the way of the Lord into their lives.

In some ways our world is not much better than that of Israel’s during the time of John the Baptist. In ways more than one ours is also an imperfect world, yet into this world the Lord will come. We have to prepare the way, that is our lives, for his coming. Advent is a proper time for it.

“[John the Baptist] went through the whole Jordan district proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins as it is written…in Isaiah: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley will be filled in, every mountain and hill be made low, winding ways will be straightened and rough roads will be made smooth. And all mankind will see the salvation of the Lord.”(Luke 3:3-5)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 09, 2012.

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