DAILY GOSPEL COMMENTARY: “John is his name”
June 24, Solemnity of the
Birth of St. John the Baptist
Gospel of June 24, Birth of St. John the Baptist.
When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her. When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.” But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.” So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. 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. The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.
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Gospel Commentary from the Navarre Bible, Commentary to the Gospel of St. Luke (with permission)
The birth and circumcision of John the Baptist
59 When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father
- Circumcision was a rite established by God under the Old Covenant to mark out those who belonged to his chosen people: he commanded Abraham to institute circumcision as a sign of the Covenant he had made with him and all his descendants (cf. Gen 17:10-14), prescribing that it should be done on the eighth day after birth.
- The rite was performed either at home or in the synagogue, and, in addition to the actual circumcision, the ceremony included prayers and the naming of the child.
- With the institution of Christian Baptism the commandment to circumcise ceased to apply.
- At the Council of Jerusalem (cf. Acts 15:1ff), the Apostles definitively declared that those entering the Church had no need to be circumcised.
- St Paul’s explicit teaching on the irrelevance of circumcision in the context of the New Alliance established by Christ is to be found in Gal 5:2ff; 6:12ff; and Col 2:11ff.
60-63 but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.” But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.” So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed60-63
- By naming the child John, Zechariah complies with the instructions God sent him through the angel (Lk 1:13).
64 Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God.
- This miraculous event fulfils the prophecy the angel Gabriel made to Zechariah when he announced the conception and birth of the Baptist (Lk 1:19-20).
- St Ambrose observes: “With good reason was his tongue loosed, because faith untied what had been tied by disbelief” (Expositio Evangelii sec. Lucam, in loc.).
- Zechariah’s is a case similar to that of St Thomas, who was reluctant to believe in the Resurrection of our Lord, and who believed only when Jesus gave him clear proof(cf. Jn 20:24-29).
- For these two men God worked a miracle and won their belief; hut normally he requires us to have faith and to obey him without his working any new miracles.
- This was why he upbraided Zechariah and punished him, and why he reproached Thomas: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (In 20:29).
VIDEO COMMENTARY ON TODAY’S GOSPEL
TOPIC 1: DO YOU BELIEVE IN THE SAYING “SILENCE IS GOLDEN?”
We celebrate, today, the birth of John the Baptist. It was a special occasion for Zechariah and Elizabeth, who were advanced in age. For Elizabeth, it was the fulfillment of her womanhood, as during her time, it was shameful for a woman not to give birth to a child, especially a son.
It was part of the Jewish custom to fulfill the Mosaic Law of circumcising one’s son on the eighth day after birth and to officially reveal his name. It was also part of the custom to name the child after his father and so everyone expected the name Zechariah.
But Elizabeth interjected and named their son John. Surprise was on everyone’s face for there was no one in the family tree that had this name. Everyone looked at Zechariah and expected him to protest. But he remained silent.
We reflect today on the virtue of silence ⏤ not the silent treatment one gets from an angry spouse or the awkward pauses in a conversation.
TOPIC 2: Are you able to fulfill the promise and goodness of your name, that which was given to you by your parents?
Naming a child is so important that Elizabeth and Zechariah went through a careful process of naming their first and only son, who Elizabeth bore at the age of at least 60, that the bible spends 5 verses for this particular event. They named him John. It is a derivative of Johanan, popular in ancient Israel, from the word “Yah,” a shortcut to Yahweh. It means “God is gracious,” or “God’s gift.”
Names are so important in shaping the life of a person and the circumstances one faces. We make light here of two true stories to start this reflection.
- In one of the courts in the Philippines, a judge was so amused he could not help but laugh when the lawyers of the two opposing camps gave their surnames. On one side, they were represented by Attorney Bulalakaw (Meteor) and on the other side, they were represented by Attorney Alitaptap (Firefly). What was going on in the mind of the judge? I reckon that the judge may have thought how coincidental it was for light to contend with another light. But he might also have said to himself that the firefly would be no match for the meteor. Hopefully, this did not influence his eventual decision.
- This second story happened in a bank, also in the Philippines. A lady employee whose surname was Zapatos (Shoe) was being courted by a fellow male employee whose surname was Pa-a (Foot). He was a good man and the friends of the lady were persuading her to accept the love proposal of the man. Eventually, she turned him down. And when asked by her friends why, she answered, “Well, I already have shoes; I wouldn’t want to spend my life shoeless.”
Such is the importance of names that families even go through the trouble of having their names changed in court. I know of two people whose surnames were a kind of vegetable and a form of underwear who had their names changed legally.
So what is there in a name? We have no say what name our parents will give us when we are born into this world. But there is a BIG difference in the name we are given and what we make of it.
- In an article in the New Yorker, Dec. 13, 2013, it said, “Some recent research suggests that names can influence choice of profession, where we live, whom we marry, the grades we earn, the stocks we invest in, whether we’re accepted to a school or are hired for a particular job, and the quality of our work in a group setting. Our names can even determine whether we give money to disaster victims: if we share an initial with the name of a hurricane, according to one study, we are far more likely to donate to relief funds after it hits.”
It is no wonder then that when you put together a group of people with these names and their meanings:
- Redentor – “Redeemer “(Architect by profession but also an architect of changes in the Global Mission Center)
- Emmanuel – “God with us” (CPA-Lawyer, very thorough in secular and Global Mission Center matters)
- Arnel – Eagle ruler (topnotch litigation lawyer with eagle eyes on details; also likes photography, especially of birds and exhibits the same attention to detail)
- George Marcelino – “Farmer, tiller of the soil and young warrior” (Former president of an energy company, cultivates all perspectives before making a decision and not shy to express his opinion respectfully)
- Ricardo – “Powerful, great leader” (President of ANCOP Canada, has raised huge funds to help the poor globally)
- James/Jaime – “One who abides” (loyal to the process of decision-making; both have excellent perspectives but once a decision is made, supports it 100%)
- Melo – “Good, calm vibe” (Marketing Head of a Pharmaceutical Company, has been a balanced presence in the Board and a listening ear to many)
- They can run a community like Couples for Christ efficiently and effectively, especially if they continue to implore God’s graces. You can also see the New Yorker article very much evident in their life choices and perspectives.
While our names may have a bearing on our whole being, it is still up to us to create our own place in the sun, so to speak. We reinforce the good in our names not just to serve our own ends and that of our families, but moreso, to help us serve God better.
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