On being wonderfully made

BY SR HILDEGARDE RYAN OSB

Sunday, June 24th, 2012 is Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.

Lectio:  Read the Gospel from Luke 1:57-66 and verse 80.

This is the amazing story of the birth of St. John the Baptist.  One beautiful commentary on this text comes from the writings of St. Maximus of Turin early in the 4th century AD. He states the facts for us clearly:  “Elizabeth’s barrenness became her glory…while in their old age she and her husband were lamenting her unfruitfulness, she unexpectedly brought forth not merely a son for herself but the herald of eternal salvation for the whole world.  Such a great herald was he that by anticipating the grace of his future ministry, he gave his mother the spirit of prophecy, and by the power of the name assigned to him by the angel, he opened the mouth of his father Zechariah, which had been sealed by doubt.”  St Maximus adds:  “John the Baptist was not the light, but because he was worthy to give testimony to the true light of the world, he was wholly in the light…he was the first to point out the light of heaven which was going to dispel the darkness of the world…”

Fr Karl Rahner has a profound commentary on this Gospel.  He takes up the theme of being “wonderfully made”.  He says that Zachary gives thanks because his child “will be the precursor of the Lord who will prepare his way and make ready a perfect people for his God.  This could be said of each in our own way, of every one of us.  A canticle could be sung for our lives, a hymn of thanksgiving, for we too belong to this chosen people whom God has called to follow his redeemer and to prepare a way before him into that future time which is always his.”

Read the Gospel story again and ponder over a few days.  Make your response to the text.  

I share my response in Evangelizatio No. 1

Evangelizatio is my LIVED RESPONSE to the sacred scriptures given to me each week by the Church for my formation as a Christian.  If I don’t respond, they are merely texts on a page.  When I do respond, they are my life.

The canticle Zechariah sung in thanksgiving for the birth of John, is the Canticle we call the Benedictus, prayed each day at Morning Prayer (for those of us who prayer the Prayer of the Church).  If I was to write a Canticle in praise of someone, which person would it be?  Who would I choose?  What would I write?  Recently, a grandmother in her 80s showed me a poem (a Canticle?) written by three of her grandchildren, in praise of her and all the love she had poured out upon them during their lives.  It brought me to tears. I know of many sisters in my own monastic community for whom I would like to write a Canticle of praise.  Why don’t I do it?  Why don’t more of us do it?  It will be life-changing for us and for them., 

(Lectio Divina is Holy Reading, that is, reading of the Sacred Scriptures.  It is a way of life, not a method of prayer.  It is about reading (and listening), reflecting, praying in tune with the Holy Spirit within me, resting in God, responding in the way I live, and continually pondering on the Scriptures).  

Sr Hildegarde Ryan lives and prays at Jamberoo Abbey

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