3rd Week of Advent
He will . . . turn the hearts of fathers toward children.
As magical as the season of Christmas is supposed to be, it can also bring the pain of family divisions into stark relief. Whether it’s a large gathering of relatives who don’t see each other very often, arguments over money, or unreasonably high expectations, divisions that have simmered underground can bubble up and even explode. Sometimes it takes very little for a season dedicated to peace on earth to turn into a time of conflict or bitterness.
It seems that the angel Gabriel had something of this in mind when he told Zechariah that his son, John the Baptist, would “turn the hearts of fathers toward children” (Luke 1:17). It may seem an odd role for John, though, to talk about family reconciliation. Wasn’t he supposed to be calling people to repentance so that they could prepare for the Messiah?
That’s exactly what John was called to do, and it’s exactly why the angel’s words were so appropriate. John didn’t tell people just to repent to God. He urged them to get right with each other as well. He told those who were well-off to show mercy to the poor by sharing their tunics with them. He told soldiers to stop extorting and falsely accusing the people in their care. And he told tax collectors to stop cheating their fellow citizens. John knew—probably because Zechariah taught him—that our ability to sense God’s forgiveness is tied to our willingness to forgive and ask forgiveness of each other.
So who better to ask for help with our families than St. John the Baptist? Just as John was sent to prepare people for Jesus through the gift of repentance, you can ask him to help you show mercy when you find it difficult. Ask him for the humility that is at the heart of all repentance and forgiveness. Tell him that you want mercy to flow in your home even more abundantly than any exchange of Christmas gifts.
Go on and ask him to pray with you for any wounded relationship you know of. Remember, he knows how to turn divided hearts toward each other.
“St. John the Baptist, you led many people to Christ through your call to repentance. Pray for me, that I can take steps toward peace and reconciliation as well.”
Judges 13:2-7, 24-25
Psalm 71:3-6, 16-17
Word Among Us