In today’s Gospel Our Lord identifies John using the prophecy of Malachi: “Behold, I send my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 3:1). This prophecy epitomizes the season of Advent: today Our Lord tells his listeners that John is, in fact, the messenger who’d come to prepare the way for him. That makes him more than a prophet; he is the prophet who would prepare for the Messiah’s coming. John was conceived in Elizabeth’s womb only a few months before Our Lord was conceived in Mary’s. In the Feast of the Presentation we remember when the Lord came “suddenly” to his temple: a baby coming for circumcision. John’s mission began from the moment of conception, just as Our Lord’s did.
Today’s First Reading from Isaiah captures the joy of a new arrival due in the family. It’s time to make room. Yet Isaiah’s imagery doesn’t stop there: the arrival of a newborn is a sign of reconciliation in his family. Some estrangement between husband (the Lord) and wife (the People of Israel) has ended, and love has reunited them and born fruit in new children. Through Baptism we were reborn as sons and daughters of God, the fruit of the reconciliation between the Lord and his beloved People through the mediation of his Son.
Most of us don’t remember the day of our Baptism, but, like John and Our Lord, our mission as Christians began that day too. It’s no coincidence that the octave of Christmas ends on New Year’s Day: it’s never to late to renew our desire to understand the Lord’s will for our lives and take up the mission he has prepared for us.
Readings: Isaiah 54:1–10; Psalm 30:2, 4–6, 11–12a, 13b; Luke 7:12–30.