What then will this child become? – Mid-week Reflection – TEXT & VIDEO

Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, by Pontormo, created 1526. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nativity_of_Saint_John_the_Baptist_(Pontormo)#/media/File:Pontormo,_nativit%C3%A0_del_battista_01.jpg
Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, by Pontormo, created 1526.

(Luke 1:57-66; 80) [24 June 2020]

The basis for this mid-week reflection is the fragment taken from the Gospel according to Luke, chapter one, verses 57 to 66 and verse 80. But, for a better understanding, it is good if we read, from the same chapter of the Gospel according to Luke, the verses 5 to 24.

We have before us the history of the birth of a child: the desire of the parents to have him, his expectation and his birth. We know from the same text that the waiting was about to make the parents give up hope, because the child was not coming. At least the baby didn’t seem to be coming when they thought he should. And yet he came because God wanted to give his parents the expected gift. Even though they stopped hoping. And when they felt him coming, they began to prepare, with joy, with new hopes for the child, with fears, with plans for himself and for themselves. And the day came when the baby was born.

We know that many great things have been said about that child, but even for Zechariah, his father, who received the message, it was impossible to understand how the predictions or expectations would be fulfilled.

Fortunately, the day of June 24, this year (2020), the day on which I propose this reflection, is the very day on which we remember the birth of John the Baptist. Beyond the fact that the birth of John the Baptist was miraculously predicted and happened when, biologically speaking, his parents could no longer hope to have a child, another aspect of the child’s birth event is particularly important. I do not want to go into the details of the story presented by the Gospel according to Luke. We can read the text at any time.

Allow me to present what made me stop reading the story of the birth of John the Baptist. Before moving on to this, we need to know that those present at the event have certainly heard the story of how John was wanted, predicted, and expected. The people there knew how old his parents were. All these things offered enough reason to wonder.

And yet when the child is born and it is time to give him a name, a question appears in the hearts and on the lips of the witnesses: ”What then will this child become?” (Luke 1:66b). I want to take this question as the central idea for this mid-week reflection.

When we ask ourselves what a child will become in the future, what he will be, we certainly think about how successful he will be, to what extent it will be a blessing for his family and for the community in which he was born and will live. We think about what this child will really become. But from the beginning, to ask this question, it is necessary to take into account a number of realities. I don’t know if I can list them all, but I’m sure you already have a few in mind.

First of all, we must take into account the family in which he was born. It is about what that family offers, in all aspects: what spiritual, human heritage, space of education, example does it offer to the child. Then we can refer to the local community where he lives. What does it offer, for example, help, school, faith, history, etc.? When we talk about community, I also mean the community of faith. What do local or national laws and customs give the child? How much all these environments (starting with the family) strive to create a space in which the child can become a blessing, to grow towards this future?

There is a saying that fish smells like the water in which it lives. And we know the difference between the taste of freshwater fish and that of fish that lives in the sea.

The environment in which the child comes is the one that offers him the tools and resources of his physical and spiritual growth. It is said that the mind and soul of a child behave like a dry sponge that gathers all the water, moisture around. This is how his mind and soul gather the example and information around him. And we know that there are periods of life in which the child does not know how to select. He gathers everything. He gathers what he has at hand. And all these build the child and will influence him throughout his life. Even when he begins to discern and choose for himself.

The question is what criteria does this child’s family, community, society offer? Like it or not, a child, in his education, depends on the criteria, on the environment we offer. I don’t want to go into details, because it’s easy to understand. What will become of the child? That depends on what we offer. So it is not just about expectations about what a child will become, but also about our obligations in his path of becoming.

John’s family wanted him. They created an environment in which to become what was expected: a gift for the family and for others. As he was promised by the angel. It wasn’t John’s father or mother who dictated to him what to become. They created the environment, helped by those around them, to make him to discover what he is, for what he came, in response to their prayers.

We pray for our children, our young people. It is our duty. But to a greater extent it is our duty to create the necessary environment for them. Let’s pray to receive the necessary inspiration and ask God for grace so that we do not forget that what we offer them today is the seed whose fruit we will reap later.

(Revd. Bernard Noghiu, Southend on Sea – 23rd June 2020)

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