Today we commemorate the birth of St. John the Baptist.  One aspect of his life is that of “holy irony”.  His mother was barren, well-past the years of natural fertility; his father was aged as well.  Yet their ability to conceive John in this most unlikely circumstance is through the intent of God – a holy irony.

This particular passage in Luke’s Gospel focuses on the naming of John the Baptist.  His father, Zechariah, has earlier questioned the angel of God about the whole meaning of this child’s purpose, including the name to be given to his child, and had thus lost his ability to speak.  Finally, when Zechariah proclaims “John is his name,” his gift of speech returns.  The holy irony is that Zechariah’s obedience to the Word of God results in his freedom of speech.

The holy irony of Christian faith is that we   discover our own joy and freedom when we stop seeking it on our own accord, and when we surrender our self-will to God’s Will.  The holy irony of our lives of Christian discipleship is that we find our true selves in lives of service and charity.  The holy irony of love and forgiveness is that these virtues grow within us through our giving them away.

Where and how have I grown in faith, hope and love by giving these away to others? 

When and how has God surprised me with totally what I needed, once I let go of what I wanted?

—Fr. Glen Chun, S.J. is minister of the Loyola University Jesuit Community, Chicago, and also serves on the vocations staff for the Chicago-Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus