Sybil 1997

Gospel text

Luke 1: 57-66.80

57 Then came the time for Elizabeth to deliver her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 When the neighbors and relatives knew how much the Lord had overflowed his compassion for her, they rejoiced with her. 59 On the eighth day they went to circumcise the child and proposed the name of the father, Zechariah. 60 But the mother intervened to say, "Absolutely not, he will be called John". 61 They replied, "No one in the family has that name." 62 Then they made signs to the father to know how he wanted to call him. 63 After asking for a tablet, he wrote: his name is John. Everyone was surprised. 64 [Immediately] his mouth opened and his tongue [loosed], and he began to recognize the loving care of God. 65 All the people in the neighborhood fell into a state of trembling, and in all the mountainous region of Judea were discussed these events. 66 All who learned this thing remembered it and wondered, "What will become of this child? The action of God supported him ...

80 The child grew and his intelligence grew stronger while he lived in the desert until he became known in Israel.


There are days when we are overwhelmed by events

Gospel commentary - Homily

Growing up is accepting to be surpassed

The scene is happening recently in a small regional town. A designer, author of his own clothing collection, is on vacation with his spouse, another man. One evening, while they are in a bar, two individuals jump on them, beat them, shouting: "Damn sissy!". The designer suffers a concussion.

This is a small news item reported by newspapers. Beyond the barbarity of the gesture, one can ask the question: why? Why such violence? Of course, it's a reaction to a homosexual relationship. But the intensity of the reaction reflects a very great emotion in front of a behavior considered unacceptable. This reveals a entrenched mentality where everything is white or black, where what can be done or not done has been determined for a long time and is irremovable. There is more. To react so violently one must feel attacked in one's world, one's values and one's identity. Is not this a sign of fragility? Is not this the sign of individuals who do not learn anything from life? This is the context in which I would like to reread the Gospel of today.

The Evangelist Luke gives us a story about the birth of John the Baptist where we go from surprise to surprise. First of all, the parents are old, and the mother, Elizabeth, is described as sterile, according to the mentality of the time when the absence of a child was a purely feminine problem. Probably inspired by this passage from the Old Testament where the wife of Abraham, old and sterile, receives the announcement that she will give birth to Isaac, Luke creates this scene where a messenger of God announces to Zechariah, the father, that his wife will give birth to a son, and this son will play an important role for the future of the Jewish people. Of course, Zechariah finds this impossible, if not ridiculous, given their situation. Regardless of the historical accuracy of each detail, Luke confronts our common sense, and Zechariah represents our skepticism, and this skepticism turns him into a handicapped man, since he becomes dumb.

Yet Elizabeth will actually give birth to a son. Luke then reserves another surprise. Among the Jews, it was at the circumcision of the child on the 8th day that he was officially receiving his name. As usual, for an elder, everyone expects to be given the name of the father, Zechariah. Because the elder will be called to take over his father's craft and will be his prolongation in time: the identity and the future of the child is already inscribed in his name. Elisabeth intervenes to say, "Absolutely not, his name will be John". What a drama! For she finds herself saying that her child will not resume the father's profession as priest of the temple of Jerusalem, that he will have his own vocation, his own mission. Luke told us before that John's name had been chosen by God, as for all the great people of the time. There is no need to ask how Elizabeth came with this name, because Luke simply wants to present her as a woman of faith, a faith greater than that of her husband.

And it is at this moment that Luke makes Zechariah intervene. We are entitled to a scene where the dumb, who must also be deaf, because we must speak to him by sign, writes on a tablet the name he wishes for the child: John; he will not bear his name, he will not be his prolongation or his clone, he will not be a priest. Immediately, says the evangelist, he recovered the use of speech and began to proclaim the word of God. This is the sign that he has become a believer, and that he accepts God's plan for his child.

To make us understand what is at stake in the whole story, Luke constantly involves kinship and the neighborhood. This entourage rejoices with Elizabeth when she becomes a mother, because this birth is the sign of the infinite goodness of God. But this entourage is overwhelmed when the mother says that her son will not carry the father's name, as it should be. And when the father will say the same thing and recover his voice, this entourage is flabbergasted, and must take the time to think, to ponder that, and to bring up the question of the identity and future of the child.

The message of Luke to his reader is clear: when God intervenes in a life, as was the case for this old couple, it offers an extremely profound blessing, but this benefit disturbs, because it goes beyond what we expected. It is a huge challenge to distance ourselves from our expectations to adjust to this new life that is presented to us. After becoming childless, Elizabeth and Zechariah had to open up to a new being. Then, John will be different from what the parents would have liked. Only faith allows one to open oneself to life.

Let's go back to our homosexual couple from the beginning and let us introduce for a moment the entourage of Elisabeth and Zechariah that Luke introduced us. What would this entourage have said? Of course, at the time of Jesus it was unthinkable, and they would have said: this cannot exists, and they would have shiverd, as facing something horrific. But since Luke presents them to us as a group that open their heart to what they see and surprises them and takes time to reflect, ie a group that accepts to be overwhelmed by events and welcomes it as God's word, then we can imagine that at the end of a humble and maybe long reflection, they would have understood that they are before human beings who have not chosen their sexual orientation, who try to assume it fully in love, and as God is at the source of this world as it is, and the source of real love, they would have adjusted to this world that God loves.

We can not live without being often overwhelmed by what happens to us, things that do not correspond to what we wanted and hoped for, but also things that do not fit with our vision of life or runs against our values. One can not grow without first accepting the brunt of those moments, taking the time to listen and meditate. There is no other secret of life than to believe that at the end of this acceptance, there is a life and a joy that I do not yet see.


-André Gilbert, Gatineau, September 2019