Nowadays we usually get given a different name from our father or mother, but back in the time of Jesus most people were given the same name. So everyone might have expected that Jesus would be called Joseph, and John the Baptist would be called Zechariah. Their parents however knew from God that their children should have different names to show that something completely new was about to happen.
They would also have been expected to do the same job as their father, so Jesus would have become a carpenter, and John a temple priest. But again, although it is more than likely that Jesus did help his father as a carpenter at first, because he didn’t begin what we know of him until he was about 30, John simply went out into the countryside and preached that Jesus was coming quite unlike a respectable Temple priest!
So what do you think your job might be when you grow up? When I was a little boy I dreamt of being a train driver. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would end up a Catholic priest. But God had other plans for me didn’t he, because I am sure now that this is what he wanted me to be.
Sometimes we can forget that all of us have something to do for God. You may think when you grow up, that what you do as is just normal and not very important, but actually everything we do, or plan to do, is important for God. In our 1st Reading (Isaiah 49:1-6) Isaiah definitely thinks he has been wasting his time, but now he realises that he was wrong, and that he was “honoured in the eyes of the Lord”
Our Psalm tells us to always think about ourselves like this, and so we said or sung “I thank you for the wonder of my being” . Now I am not too keen in looking in the mirror, and maybe you are like me, but I can look at my hands as I say those words, and wonder at what God has made. It also reminds me that wherever I go and whatever I do, good or bad, God knows what I am up to and cares about it! Now that IS a challenge!
The Gospel today (Luke 1:57-66.80) is a reminder to your parents and any other parents here today to be open to the idea of their children doing something in life totally different from what they might expect. They might want you to be doctors, lawyers, or engineers, but the right thing, the thing that God wants, might be something completely different. John the Baptist’s parents must have despaired when their son went off into the countryside away from the town dressed in rough old clothes, but hopefully they remembered that God had told them that this son was to be different, and so they accepted the weird lifestyle that he had adopted. They must have shuddered when they heard later that he had challenged the behaviour of King Herod, and wept a great deal when he was imprisoned and then killed; but hopefully they realised because of what had happened at his birth, that all he had done was worth doing whatever the world thoughtThose of you making your 1st Communion today cannot know what you will do in the future. What I hope you will realise is that whatever you do, receiving Jesus in Holy Communion week by week and year by year will support and strengthen and challenge you all the way through your life. Like Isaiah, you may not always be aware that God is with you especially when things are difficult or sad. You may even feel then that God is not with you anymore. This is something that many of us have experienced, but like Isaiah and like John the Baptist, whatever we may feel like, we must remind ourselves again and again that God is with us. As we said to God in the Psalm “You know my resting and my rising, you discern my purpose from afar… all my ways lie open to you.”