the days of Herod, King of Judea, there was
a priest named Zechariah of the priestly division of
Abijah; his wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and
her name was Elizabeth. Both were righteous in the
eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances
of the Lord blamelessly. But they had no child,
because Elizabeth was barren and both were advanced in years.
Once when he was serving as priest in his
division’s turn before God, according to the practice of
the priestly service, he was chosen by lot to enter
the sanctuary of the Lord to burn incense. Then,
when the whole assembly of the people was praying
outside at the hour of the incense offering, the angel
of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the
right of the altar of incense. Zechariah was troubled by
what he saw, and fear came upon him. But
the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid,
Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth
will bear you a son, and you shall name
him John. And you will have joy and gladness,
and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will
be great in the sight of the Lord. He
will drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will be
filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s
womb, and he will turn many of the children
of Israel to the Lord their God. He will go
before him in the spirit and power of Elijah
to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the
disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare
a people fit for the Lord.” Then Zechariah said
to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I
am an old man, and my wife is advanced
in years.” And the angel said to him in
reply, “I am Gabriel, who stand before God. I was
sent to speak to you and to announce to
you this good news. But now you will be speechless
and unable to talk until the day these things
take place, because you did not believe my words,
which will be fulfilled at their proper time.” Meanwhile the
people were waiting for Zechariah and were amazed that
he stayed so long in the sanctuary. But when
he came out, he was unable to speak to them,
and they realized that he had seen a vision
in the sanctuary. He was gesturing to them but remained
mute. Then, when his days of ministry were completed,
he went home. After this time his wife Elizabeth
conceived, and she went into seclusion for five months,
saying, “So has the Lord done for me at a
time when he has seen fit to take away
my disgrace before others.”
Introductory Prayer: Grant me the grace to
make the most of this time of anticipation for
your arrival at Christmas, Lord. My faith rests in you,
my hope looks toward spending eternity with you. Help
me grasp the value of time in the face
Petition: Lord, help me to see the signs that
you send into my life.
1. Seeing, yet Disbelieving:
Zechariah had no excuse for doubting. There he was:
in the sanctuary of the Lord, burning incense ― a
once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It was a privileged moment, a sacred
space. Even an angel appears! If ever a man
should have been prepared for a special message, it
was Zechariah. Yet he doubts. He doesn’t believe. He had
followed "all the commandments," yet his fidelity didn’t translate
into a living faith at a crucial moment. Do
we fall into the same trap? We say many
prayers, but react with skepticism when God has a special
request. Why is that? Are we trying to show
love when we pray? Or are we just rattling on?
Excuses, Excuses: Zechariah thought his age would hinder God’s plan.
He underestimated God’s power. Indeed, it is not God
who is limited; rather, we are the ones who
limit God, so to speak. Throughout the Bible, God called
on unlikely people. Moses probably stuttered (cf. Exodus 4:10).
Jeremiah was "too young" (Jeremiah 1:6). Peter was uneducated
(Acts 4:13). Saul of Tarsus hated Christians (cf. Acts
9:1). All were unlikely prophets or apostles ― yet
they let God use them. What’s my excuse for saying
no to God? Am I too busy? Too old?
Too young? Too unworthy? Could God be calling me to
do something that I think is beyond my capability?
Plowing Ahead: God goes ahead with his plan despite Zechariah’s
lack of faith. The Almighty was anxious to raise
up a fitting herald (St. John the Baptist) for
his Son. So he left Zechariah speechless for a time.
We shouldn’t be surprised if God plows ahead with
his own plans in our lives, even when we
resist him. He might do something unusual in our lives
in order to keep his plans advancing. Could those
setbacks really be God’s hand at work? Might he be
preparing us for something better?
Conversation with Christ: I like
to think that I’m less stubborn than Zechariah, Lord.
But sometimes it is hard to accept your will. I
might even feel as if I have "missed the
boat," and that you are no longer interested in me.
Help me reject this kind of thinking and to
have confidence in you.
Resolution: I will pray a Hail Mary
for the ability to say “yes” to God’s plans
in my life.
By Father Edward