In the Gospel today, Elizabeth speaks for Zechariah when she chooses a name that has no connection to the family line. The family responds with incredulity. “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.” They are mystified by this break in tradition – by the audacity of something new. It is the old man’s confirmation of this new name which breaks the silence of his unbelief. “John is his name.”
There is a “John” in every family, I think – a child who is a bit different, who somehow, in their very being, suggests some mischief on God’s part. Those precious children have a role to play in God’s plan for the family – some new word to speak, some truth to proclaim. Often, this child will draw the ire of some and the direct rebuke of others. Perhaps, Zechariah and Elizabeth had a moment of wishing that their child could be just like other children. Perhaps, they felt vulnerable or even embarrassed by the attention around his birth. Surely, the joy of his arrival would have done much to ease the complex web of feelings that surround a “special” child. We know nothing more of John’s childhood except that he grew and became “strong in spirit”. Scholars conjecture that he may have been dedicated early to God’s service and nurtured by the Essenes – the pre-monastic sect of first century Judaism. We hear nothing of him again until Jordan’s bank. A radical life lived in the wilderness and attuned to God’s Word – John’s was a new path of simplicity and authenticity. So serious in his call to repentance, we forget that John leapt for joy in his mother’s womb in the presence of the Word made flesh. So special was this child that of him Jesus said, “There is none borne of woman greater than John.”
To all who have a special child in your midst, take heart in the story of the Baptist. Though no child will be called to do exactly what he did, GOD still uses us to further the coming of the Kingdom. Each one of us has some part to play – some assent of our will to add to reign of God. The special child in your family may have more on their “to do” list than you can imagine. Cherish the one who sticks out and seems so different from all the rest. God is always doing something and that something begins from our mother’s womb. We are all “fearfully, wonderfully made.” Some, like John, have very special work to do.
Blessings and love to you all...
- Sister Vicki