Friends, today’s Gospel tells the story of the birth and naming of John the Baptist. John’s father Zechariah had been rendered speechless after his vision in the sanctuary, but we hear that “his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God.”
What follows this passage is the wonderful Canticle of Zechariah, which puts Jesus and John in the context of the great story of Israel. Once we grasp that Jesus was no ordinary teacher and healer, but Yahweh moving among his people, we can begin to understand his words and actions more clearly. If we survey the texts of the Old Testament—and the first Christians relentlessly read Jesus in light of these writings—we see that Yahweh was expected to do four great things: he would gather the scattered tribes of Israel; he would cleanse the holy temple in Jerusalem; he would definitively deal with the enemies of the nation; and finally, he would reign as Lord of the world.
The eschatological hope expressed especially in the prophets and the Psalms was that through these actions, Yahweh would purify Israel, and through the purified Israel bring salvation to all. What startled the first followers of Jesus is that he accomplished these four tasks, but in the most unexpected way.
Reflect: The first words Zechariah spoke after being mute for more than six months were in praise of God. How often do you praise God aloud and in the presence of other people?