Elisabeth and Zechariah did not choose the name of their Son. John (the Baptist) received his name directly from God. In Hebrew, the name meant “Graced by Yahweh” or “Yahweh is Gracious”. No one in their family had been named John. It certainly came as a shock to their friends and family. Zechariah and Elisabeth had had time to process the message of the angel. Their whole way of seeing this child would be entirely and irrevocably changed. They surly understood that God had been gracious with them and that their child had a mission, a special call.
The Lord graced Elisabeth and Zechariah with a child. They looked upon their child and felt unworthy and grateful. Zechariah had doubted the message of the angel and he was silenced for that. Yet even in this punishment, we find a lesson. Perhaps silence was the only adequate response to the coming of a child. It gave him the chance to reflect and see the hand of God at work. Zechariah and Elisabeth were wounded by their infertility prior to the coming of the Angel, hence their hesitancy to believe. When John was born, their joy overflowed, they could not help but turn to God in thanks. Zechariah will speak in his canticle about the mercy that God has had upon them. All parents can see that their child is a gift or grace from God, but this was particularly strong in the birth of John the Baptist.
Not only did they see that John was a grace for themselves but they knew that he was a grace for all of Israel. John was to be a “prophet of the Most High” (Lk 1:76), and this meant that as parents they had to allow God to work in their child. That they could not control the fate of their child, but rather they had to lay their child at the feet of God, raising John so that He could cooperate with grace of God. Ultimately their saw that by being a parent they were poor servants of God and God’s plan. They had no rights that were more important than God’s rights. This poverty made it so that they could serve with all their hearts and raise a child to live of something far greater than they could have ever imagined. They did not raise John to live of their own plans or ideas, they did not raise John to live a life that would be like their own. They raised John to live of God’s plan and the world will be forever changed because these parents decided to cooperate with the plan of God.
To conclude, let us pray to God that we might receive each person as a Grace from Yahweh and respect God’s plan for each person.