A wise Benedictine friend once said, “Sometimes, all we can do is say to God, ‘What are you asking of me?’” When he was a young man, his dream of becoming a priest was shattered when he was diagnosed with a crippling degenerative disease. As a member of a monastic community, he knew that he could rely on being loved and cared for as his health failed. But he also knew he could rely on God to guide him through a life of purpose and meaning. He became a beloved mentor to many younger monks and monastery guests who savored his hospitality.
When holding a newborn most people can’t help but ask, “What will this child become?” According to Scripture, John the Baptist grew up knowing what God had asked of him even before he was born. His parents surely must have told him the circumstances surrounding his conception and birth. Both Elizabeth and Zechariah had experienced God breaking into their lives, telling them their child would serve a special purpose. An angel appears to Zechariah, fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy by naming John while he is still in his mother’s womb. When a pregnant Mary visits her cousin, Elizabeth realizes that her unborn infant has recognized the Savior in Mary’s womb.
Strange doings, mystifying the neighbors when John is born. And Zechariah tells them there is more to come, for this child, bringing the good news of the forgiveness of sins, is the last of the prophets. John prepares the way for Jesus, and he inspires us to consider what purpose God intends for us.