Be a Herald of Christ

Neo the HeraldI always look forward to the return of Standard Time, when we gain back the precious hour of sleep we lost in spring. Even if it’s only an illusion that lasts for a few days, I’ll take it. Extra sleep!

But this year, my wake-up service obviously did not get the memo to turn his clock back... I’m talking about my cat Neo, a friendly and mischievous black cat who has been my living alarm clock ever since he adopted me three years ago. Every morning, Neo hops on my bed at 6:00 am, nudging me awake to presumably give him breakfast. But I also like to think he just wants to get the day started and needs me to keep him company. Such feline faithfulness is very touching–except on the week we go back to Standard Time!

Obviously, the animal kingdom is not impressed with our vain human attempt to control time. Morning is morning. The cows start milking and the roosters start crowing, regardless of Daylight Saving legislation. Neo, my morning herald, will always cheerfully announce a new day of adventure.

Neo reminds me of John the Baptist, the Herald of Christ who announced the coming of the New Day in the person of his cousin Jesus. John was an unexpected shining light for his elderly parents who, after many years of married life, resigned themselves to being a childless couple. Like his cousin, John’s birth was announced by an angel. When his father Zechariah did not believe at first, the angel took away his ability to speak.

It was only when John was born that Zechariah’s mouth was opened, and he burst forth into a prayer that has become the morning song of the Church: Benedictus, the morning Gospel canticle prayed daily in the Liturgy of the Hours. It begins as a song of thanksgiving for Israel’s deliverance from sin and oppression. But Zechariah then addresses his newborn son and the prophetic role that God has chosen for him:

"You, my child, have been chosen
a prophet of the Lord,
proclaiming his forgiveness,
salvation to make known,
preparing the way of God.

When I pray the Benedictus every morning, I like to think Zechariah’s words are also addressed to all Christians. Born in our baptism as children of God, we, too, are called to be heralds of Christ, announcing his love to a world that needs his forgiveness and tender compassion.

So, thank you, John the Baptist! Thank you, Neo! And thank you, Steve Angrisano and Curtis Stephan, for your beautiful new contemporary setting of Zechariah’s song of praise.

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