Gospel for December 19, 2013 , Thursday, 3rd Week of Advent
Psalter: Week 3
Ps 71:3–4a, 5–6ab, 16–17
My mouth shall be filled with your praise, and I will sing your glory!
1st Reading: Jdg 13:2–7, 24–25a
There was a man of Zorah of the tribe of Dan, called Manoah. His wife could not bear children. The Angel of Yahweh appeared to this woman and said to her, “You have not borne children and have not given birth, but see, you are to conceive and give birth to a son. Because of this, take care not to take wine or any alcoholic drink, nor to eat unclean foods from now on, for you shall bear a son who shall be a Nazirite of Yahweh from the womb of his mother. Never shall his hair be cut for he is consecrated to Yahweh. He shall begin the liberation of the Israelites from the Philistine oppression.”
The woman went to her husband and told him, “A messenger of God who bore the majesty of an angel spoke to me. I did not ask him where he came from nor did he tell me his name.
But he said to me: ‘You are to conceive and give birth to a son. Henceforth, you shall not drink wine or fermented drinks, nor eat anything unclean, for your son shall be a Nazirite of God from the womb of his mother until the day of his death’.”
The woman gave birth to a son and named him Samson. The boy grew and Yahweh blessed him. Then the Spirit of Yahweh began to move him when he was in Mahane Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol.
Gospel: Lk 1:5–25
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there lived a priest named Zechariah, belonging to the priestly clan of Abiah. Elizabeth, Zechariah’s wife, also belonged to a priestly family. Both of them were upright in the eyes of God and lived blamelessly in accordance with all the laws and commands of the Lord, but they had no child. Elizabeth could not have any and now they were both very old.
Now, while Zechariah and those with him were fulfilling their office, it fell to him by lot, according to the custom of the priests, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. At the time of offering incense all the people were praying outside; it was then that an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. On seeing the angel, Zechariah was deeply troubled and fear took hold of him.
But the angel said to him, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah, be assured that your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you shall name him John. He will bring joy and gladness to you and many will rejoice at his birth.
This son of yours will be great in the eyes of the Lord. Listen: he shall never drink wine or strong drink, but he will be filled with holy spirit even from his mother’s womb. Through him many of the people of Israel will turn to the Lord their God. He himself will open the way to the Lord with the spirit and power of the prophet Elijah; he will reconcile fathers and children, and lead the disobedient to wisdom and righteousness, in order to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I believe this? I am an old man and my wife is elderly, too.” The angel replied, “I am Gabriel, who stands before God, and I am the one sent to speak to you and bring you this good news! My words will come true in their time. But you would not believe and now you will be silent and unable tospeak until this has happened.”
Meanwhile the people waited for Zechariah, and they were surprised that he delayed so long in the sanctuary. When he finally appeared, he could not speak to them and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He remained dumb and made signs to them.
When his time of service was completed, Zechariah returned home and some time later Elizabeth became pregnant. For five months she kept to herself, remaining at home, and thinking, “What is the Lord doing for me! This is his time for mercy and for taking away my public disgrace.”
Both readings of the day describe how God intervenes in our moments of despair and barrenness and makes our life fruitful. Manoah and his wife were without children, and so were Zachariah and Elizabeth. Given the thinking of the times, they would have been considered cursed by God. But how wonderfully God intervenes in their life and changes the curse into an exotic blessing! Often God’s interventions stun us into silence. Zachariah’s inability to speak was a gentle punishment for his disbelief for, as a priest of the Lord and a member of a priestly family, he should have been more inclined to trust God’s mysterious ways. However, the inability to speak might have been partly due to him being stunned by the goodness of the Lord. Who wouldn’t be, when grace abounds around us? We have the example of St. Thomas Aquinas. It is said that he, who had written volumes on God, went into a prolonged silence after having been granted a vision from God. As a wise saying in the East goes: “Those who speak, do not know; those who know, do not speak.” When the Mystery descends on us, words fail.
Why not practice some holy silence today, contemplating the Mystery of God?
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