The “hand of the Lord”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist, 23 June 2022
Isaiah 49:1-6 ><]]]]'> Acts 13:22-26 ><]]]]'> Luke 1:57-66, 80
Photo by author, the Church of St. John the Baptist at Ein Karem, Israel, 2019.

All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.

Luke 1:66-67

The term “hand of the Lord” is a description of God’s presence and power in the Old Testament, a vivid way of presenting God “intervening” in the daily lives of his people, saving them from all kinds of dangers like the prophets.

There was Elijah who was hunted by the soldiers of Jezebel and the “hand of the Lord was on Elijah” (1 Kgs. 18:46) that he was spared from their murderous plots. Then there was also Ezekiel who saw “the hand of the Lord” (Ez. 37:1) upon him at the vision of a valley of dry bones coming back to life.

Sometimes, the “hand the Lord” referred to God’s judgment like when King David had sinned against God in not trusting him when he ordered a census of soldiers before a battle. It angered God who asked David to choose which punishment he preferred: natural disaster or victory by his enemies or God’s judgment. David chose the third option, saying, “Let me fall into the hand of the Lord for his mercy is great…” (1 Chr. 21:13).

In narrating to us the events that transpired at the birth and circumcision of John, Luke merged the two meanings of the expression “hand of the Lord” to show that every moment of judgment is also a moment of grace as seen in the life of John the Baptist who “grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel” (Lk.1:80).

If we go back to Luke’s account of the annunciation of John’s birth, we also find the hand of God clearly at him with Elizabeth feeling vindicated with her pregnancy specially when visited by Mary. Most of all, the hand of the Lord was strongly felt at the birth, circumcision and naming of John in the most unique manner not only because no one among their relatives have such name (Lk.1:61) but most of all when Zechariah his father wrote “John is his name” and “Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God” (Lk.1:63).

Photo by author, site of John’s birthplace underneath the Church of St. John the Baptist at Ein Karem, Israel, 2019.

What a beautiful scene of Zechariah and Elizabeth wrapped in the arms of God, basking in his tremendous blessings with the people so amazed for evidently God was present among them, working in the most special ways albeit in silence that after looking back to the past and the present moment, they wondered what more good things God has in store for the three.

The same scene happens daily in our lives as individuals, as families and communities and as a nation – of how the hand of God saving us in so many occasions like during this pandemic and recent disasters through generous people coming to our side. There lies the greatness of Zechariah and Elizabeth – through them despite their weaknesses, the hand of the Lord worked wonders not only for them but for everyone including us in this time.

We are invited today to be like John’s parents who, despite their weaknesses and shortcomings, they allowed the hand of God to work in them and manifest in them. The name Zechariah means “God remembers” while Elizabeth means “God promised”, a beautiful combination of names of a couple who tell us how God remembered his promise to them and gave them John which means “graciousness of God.”

Photo by author, 2019.

In this age when we act as though God does not exist with our emphases on the wrong notions of freedom and the “dictatorship of relativism” along with materialism and consumerism, we celebrate this Solemnity of John’s nativity to remember our calling to be prophets and precursors of Jesus like Isaiah in the Old Testament who voiced dissensions to the wrong ways of the people like “a sharp-edged sword” and “polished arrow” (Is. 49:2) even to the point of offering one’s life, truly a precursor of the coming Christ.

John’s testimony still resounds today as proclaimed by Paul in our second reading, urging everyone to repent ones sins to go back to God, always ensuring we are not the Christ but merely his messengers not worthy to unfasten his sandals.

Today is also the eve of another Solemnity, that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus as we come to close the first half of 2022. Let us not forget the COVID-19 pandemic is still with us, that we must not let our guards down lest all our gains this year go to waste. Are we willing to be used as expressions of the “hand of the Lord”?

May we keep “the hand of the Lord” with us, allowing ourselves to be used by God like Zechariah, Elizabeth, and John the Baptist in meditating where Jesus is leading us in the second half of 2022. It is enough that we lead others to Jesus. In fact, that is the only joy we have in this mission and once others have met Christ, then, like John the Baptist, we begin to disappear, leaving only the hand of the Lord. Amen.

Photo by Fr. Pop dela Cruz, San Miguel, Bulacan, 15 June 2022.