Friends, today’s Gospel tells the story of the birth and naming of John the Baptist.
This story brings John’s parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth, into focus. Both are strongly priestly personages. Elizabeth is a descendant of the family of Aaron, the first priest of Israel, and Zechariah was a practicing temple priest.
What’s important for our purposes is that John was of very priestly stock. He grew up in and around the temple, acquainted with its rituals. So why, when we first hear of him in his adult life, is he out in the desert and not in the temple?
The temple had been renovated, largely rebuilt, by Herod the Great. But Herod was a wicked man, as we know from the Gospels themselves and from lots of other ancient sources. He had effectively declared himself the Messiah of Israel.
John saw how corrupt all of this was, and he sensed that the true Messiah was on the horizon. So he went away from the old temple, and he continued to act as a priest, but as priest of a new Temple: Jesus himself, the new Holy of Holies.
Reflect: What does it mean to say that Jesus himself is the new Temple?