The birth of a child always represents both an end and a beginning. For the child, it is the end of the narrow world of the mother’s womb and the beginning of all the possibilities that will lead from infancy to childhood, and then finally to adulthood. For parents, the new life of the child means new possiblilties, but it also means and end to the former status quo; old patterns and behaviors will have to be re-negotiated, even abandoned. The story of the birth of John the Baptist has this dynamism, but the richness of the tale is much more than that of a domestic story of a child being born. It is the story of the birth of not only a child, but a birth of a whole new world and the end of an old one.
With the birth of John the Baptist, which we celebrate this Sunday, the first rays of the dawn of redemption break upon the world. For in his light we see the One who will be all Light: Jesus the Lord. The coming of Christ into the world will mean that the old world of sin and death has come to an end and the new world of grace and mercy has begun. So you see, as John is born, more is born into the world than just a baby, as today’s Gospel makes clear. John will be the one who lets us know that God has come into our world in Christ and the promises of salvation to Israel are now fulfilled. May we recognize this great revelation and stop living as if the old world of sin and death is our greatest truth; it is not!
Instead, Jesus has given us new possibilities—beyond the fear, anxiety, and regret; beyond the anger, hate, and scapegoating. Let us seek in the here and now of our lives the grace and mercy of the new world that Jesus has given to us—and in imitation of St. John the Baptist, invite others to share in this promise.