December 23, 2019
(Seventh of Seven ‘O Antiphons’)
“O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law: come to save us, Lord our God!”
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” Is_7:14
After the birth of John, their neighbors and relatives wanted to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother insisted he be named John. So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors, Mal_3:1-4,23-24
Every Sunday, when we come to Mass, we get to see, and maybe visit with, some of the beautiful children who are part of our Catholic family through their Baptisms. It’s funny, because, one day they’re infants in the arms of their parents, and the next time we see them, they’re walking or running around on their own. Before we blink our eyes, they’re graduating high school and we barely recognize them. And then, in another blink, they’re coddling children of their own.
It just makes us wonder: Do you think the family and neighbors of the cuddly, little baby John could have ever pictured him in a camel’s hair robe and a leather belt, while throngs of people awaited his baptism in the middle of a river?
And yet, nine-months before that rather miraculous birth of John to the aged and barren Elizabeth, the Angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah to prophesy that exact future for his son.
He told Zechariah that John would be “great in the sight of the Lord.” He said that John “would drink neither wine, nor strong drink,” that “he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb,” and that “he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.” Lk_1:5-25
And then Gabriel said that John would “go before the Lord in the Spirit and power of Elijah, and turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous.” Lk_1:5-25
Now, if Zechariah knew anything about the Scriptures, which surely he did, as a Levite Priest, he would have immediately recognized Gabriel’s words from the writings of the Prophet Malachi, some 450-years earlier, which said, “Lo, I will send you – Elijah, the prophet, before ‘the day of the LORD’ comes, the great and terrible day. To turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.” Mal_3-4
But, you see, God didn’t want Zechariah spilling those precious beans about Gabriel’s prophesy – before their time was right. And so, Zechariah was made speechless until this very moment – that we heard in today’s Gospel. It truly was another magnificent Sign of God – that not only left the people in awe over Zechariah’s recovery, but in great fear for their own state of unworthiness in the presence of God.
And YET, just as Gabriel consoled Mary’s fear with the words, “Do not be afraid, Mary.” And just as Gabriel consoled Zechariah’s fear with the words, “Do not be afraid Zechariah,” Jesus consoles every one of us with those same words, “Do not be afraid,” for our redemption is at hand.
When we seek Him, beloved, He will be our consolation.
When we know Him, He will be our strength.
And when we Love Him, with all our hearts and souls, we will be together with Him, and with one another, IN His Love, forever.
That’s God’s promise.
And we know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that our God is always faithful to His promises.
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