Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent
(Malachi 3:1-4.23-24; Luke 1:57-66)
Unlike Jesus’ name, the gospel writers place no significance in the name “John.” But there are two significant details in today’s gospel story of Jesus’ forerunner’s name. First, John’s father Zechariah shows obeisance to the Lord here. Before, he doubted the angel’s word that he and Isabel would conceive. Now he names the child “John” as Gabriel instructed. Second, Zechariah and Isabel independently agree that their child be called “John.” Since no one in their family has that name, the prompt agreement is extraordinary.
The prophecy from Malachi, today’s first reading, tells the role John is to play within the gospel. He will go before the Lord Jesus, preparing the people for his message. Malachi calls the forerunner “Elijah,” who called down fire from heaven. John preached fire and brimstone. Although he, like Jesus, spoke of the coming of the kingdom, his message was colored with threats. Jesus largely preached the kingdom of God’s mercy.
Some fret over names. They don’t want to be called ugly or stupid. They want to be known as intelligent, sexy, and cool. Let us strive to be named, like John, “forerunners of the Lord.” Let us prepare the world for his coming withacts of mercy and kindness.