"Breaking Open the Word" :
James Cavanagh is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. His weekly column, "Breaking Open the Word," is syndicated by the Denver Catholic Register, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Click here to visit the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Denver.
June 24: St. John the Baptist
• Isaiah 49:1-6
Synopsis: The birth of St. John the Baptist marked the beginning of the Messianic age. Malachi, the last prophet in the Old Testament, foresaw the day —the Day of the Lord—when God would send ‘Elijah’ to prepare the way for Christ. John the Baptist was the new Elijah who fulfilled Malachi’s prediction (Matthew 17:12).
This week’s first reading was chosen to highlight the role of John the Baptist in God’s plan of salvation, who was called to “be a light to the nations.” These words foreshadow those of Zechariah, John’s father, who said of his son: “And you my child shall be called the prophet of the most high ….. To give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Luke 1:76, 79).
The second reading is from Paul’s speech at the synagogue in Antioch of Pisidia (central Turkey). Paul’s sermon, like most of the speeches in Acts, concisely expresses the essential gospel message. In this passage Paul stresses the role of John the Baptist who “preached a baptism of repentance” to prepare the way of the Lord.
In this week’s gospel we hear about the birth of John and his naming. His father Zechariah had been struck dumb because he doubted the angel who told him that his wife would give birth, though they were both well past child-bearing age. When the time came for the child to be named, Zechariah wrote on a tablet: “John is his name.” Immediately his tongue was freed and he blessed God saying, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel! He has come to his people and set them free!” (Luke 1:68). “John” means “graced by the Lord.”
Key verse: “John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.” (Acts 13:24)
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “St. John the Baptist is the Lord's immediate precursor or forerunner, sent to prepare his way. ‘Prophet of the Most High,’ John surpasses all the prophets, of whom he is the last. He inaugurates the Gospel, already from his mother's womb welcomes the coming of Christ.” [no. 523]
Pope Benedict XVI: “St. Gregory the Great comments that the Baptist ‘preaches the right faith and good works … so that the power of grace penetrate, the light of the truth shine, the roads to God be made straight and that the words that are born in the soul after hearing the Word guide to the good.’ We too are called to listen to God's voice, which resounds in the desert of the world through the sacred Scriptures, especially when they are preached with the power of the Holy Spirit.’ [Angelus, 12.05.10]
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. Cavanagh’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register.
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