"MEDITATION 1: Two Announcements: the Births of John the Baptist and Jesus."
The passage under consideration today is the first of a series in which we will follow, step by step, the earliest moments of Jesus’ story through to his temptations in the wilderness and the beginning of his ministry. In this double fragment, Luke underlines the background and origins of Jesus according to the flesh. In a sense, it should be linked to the genealogy he presents in 3:23-38.
God’s salvation is not a process detached from human history, nor is the Messiah an alien appearing in the middle of time. He has his roots in the people of Israel. He has ancestors and relatives, lives under the rule of a particular king, and speaks the language of his people. No one can deny his human condition; he is not the appearance of a mythical hero, or a god under disguise. But although John and Jesus share the same familiar, social, historical and religious background, there is an essential difference between them. John will “prepare a people fit for the Lord,” but Jesus “will be called the Son of the Most High.”
Both texts follow the same pattern. In each case, the announcement of a message of salvation troubles the recipients, Zechariah and Mary, who are told to put aside any fear.
The message - the birth of a son, his name and greatness - makes them ask for an explanation before accepting God’s plans for their lives. The result in Zechariah’s story is the extraordinary conception of John, which meant Elizabeth’s “disgrace” – the fact of being barren - will be taken away. In the end, God’s design advances in due time, even if men’s incredulity hinders its fulfillment. Zechariah, although he is a priest, does not believe, and his dumbness will be a sign for the people. The announcement and the promises of being the mother of the heir to David’s throne makes Mary deeply conscious of her responsibility in accepting such a serious commitment. She asks: “How can this be…?”
Mary is the prudent virgin who, in spite of being a humble woman, ponders with faith God’s plans, and accepts them with all their consequences: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
Rev. Fr. Mariano Perrón, Roman Catholic priest, Archdiocese of Madrid, Spain
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