Friends, today’s Gospel contains the prayer of Zechariah at the birth of his son, John the Baptist.
This prayer is especially precious to priests, religious, and all those who pray the Liturgy of the Hours on a daily basis. It’s called the “Benedictus,” from its first word in Latin, or the “Canticle of Zechariah.” What’s wonderful about this prayer (and why the Church asks its ministers to pray it every day) is that it sums up magnificently the whole history of salvation, putting Jesus and John in the context of the great story of Israel.
In the canticle, Zechariah poignantly addresses the infant John the Baptist, saying, “You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High.” He calls him by this high name of prophet, nabi in Hebrew—a spokesman for God. All of the prophets— Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Joel, Hosea—looked toward the fulfillment of the covenant, the conquest of Israel’s enemies, the establishment of right worship. John is seen here as the last and greatest of the Old Testament prophets. His role is, like all the prophets, to “go before the Lord to prepare his way.” His job is to point, explain, indicate—and then disappear.
Reflect: John the Baptist said about Jesus, “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30). What does this mean and how might it apply to you as well?