Because June 24 is always celebrated as the Birth of John the Baptist, this Sunday we will celebrate the Birth of John rather than the normal Sunday of Ordinary Time. The readings call us to consider how carefully we attend to our own growing “strong in spirit”? How is this reflected in our daily living? How might we be John the Baptist for others and help point them toward Jesus?
First Reading: Isaiah 49: 1-6
1 Hear me, O coastlands, listen, O distant peoples. The LORD called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name. 2 He made of me a sharp-edged sword and concealed me in the shadow of his arm. He made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me. 3 You are my servant, he said to me, Israel, through whom I show my glory. 4 Though I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, Yet my reward is with the LORD, my recompense is with my God. 5 For now the LORD has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb, That Jacob may be brought back to him and Israel gathered to him; And I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD, and my God is now my strength! 6 It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.
NOTES on First Reading:
* 49:3 Here the Suffering Servant seems to be identified with the people of Israel as their ideal representative. However, since Isaiah 49:5, and 6 seem to distinguish the Servant from Israel as a whole, some scholars regard the word Israel here to be a gloss that was added later. Some have suggested that it represents the faithful Israelites.
* 49:4 This appears to be a protest by the Servant in line with the protests of several prophets at their commissioning as in Isa 6:5;40:6; Jer 1:6. The Servant expresses dejection over what appears to be a wasted ministry and ultimately leaves the result of the ministry in the hands of God.
* 49:5 The text here seems a bit damaged. It repeats part of verse 1 and provides a new introduction. It seems to conflict with 40:1-11 and 45:2-3,113 where God Himself or Cyrus leads the new exodus.
* 49:6 The Servant’s call is not only the restoration of Israel but the conversion of the world. Luke 2:32 refers to this verse.
Second Reading: Acts of the Apostles 13: 22-26
22 Then he removed him and raised up David as their king; of him he testified, ‘I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will carry out my every wish.’ 23 From this man’s descendants God, according to his promise, has brought to Israel a savior, Jesus. 24 John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel; 25 and as John was completing his course, he would say, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.’ 26 “My brothers, children of the family of Abraham, and those others among you who are God-fearing, to us this word of salvation has been sent.
NOTES on Second Reading:
* 13:22 Here David is used with the Greek verb,”egeirein,” which with verse 23 makes David a type (prefigure) of Jesus (30). God’s testimony to David is a combination of Ps 89:21 and 1 Sam 13:14.
* 13:23 This verse reflects and is clearly influenced by 2 Sam 7:12. Although, some have suggested that this whole section starting with 13:17 is actually a midrashic commentary on the prophecy of Nathan in 2 Sam 7:8-16, the reference to “the fathers” would indicate that the writer has more than just the oracle to David by Nathan in mind. God’s promises of a “savior” which are found in all of the Old Testament are fulfilled in the resurrection of the descendant of David.
* 13:24 This verse, in Greek, is an excellent example of Luke’s “mimesis” or imitation of stylistic features of the language of the establish the atmosphere of a “sacred time.”
* 13:25 John is at the very end of the time of the “Law and the Prophets.” See 16:16.
* 13:26 This verse reiterates the identification of the audience of the Word. See 13:16-17.
Gospel Reading: Luke 1: 57-66, 80
57 When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her. 59 When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, 60 but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.” 61 But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.” 62 So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. 63 He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed. 64 Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. 65 Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. 66 All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him. 80 The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.
NOTES on Gospel Reading:
1:57-58 Gabriel’s promise from 1:14 has come to pass. The response to God’s action in the face of human impossibility is joy.
* 1:59 There is a parallel drawn between the circumcision and naming of John and that of Jesus in 2:21. By circumcision both John and Jesus are incorporated into Israel. For Luke, Christianity is a logical outgrowth of Judaism therefore it is important that those upon whom it is founded are shown to be part of Judaism.
* 1:60-63 John means “Yahweh has shown favor.” The people are amazed because both parents say that the child is to be called John even though Zechariah is deaf and can not hear Elizabeth say it.
* 1:64 In fulfillment of 1:20, Zechariah now speaks in praise of God.
* 1:65-66 The question about the future of the child is answered partly by 1:76-79 and then more fully in 3:1-20. See also 7:17-35.
* 1:80 Luke removes John from the scene by placing him in the desert and sets the readers up for a later act in the story when he will tell of John’s prophecy to Israel.