In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.
Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him.
But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 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 must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.” The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.”
Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. When his time of service was ended, he went to his home. After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, “This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Both readings today tell the tales of women without children experiencing miraculous pregnancies resulting in births of strong, outspoken prophets. Samson and John: born to be wild! Wild with the Word of God flaming forth from an inborn passion to prepare the way of our God. Soon we will celebrate another miraculous birth. John heralds the coming of the Word-Made-Flesh. The passion within Jesus will run deep in his commitment to fulfill his Father’s will.
As I approach the celebration of Incarnate Love, how passionate a prophet am I? Could someone describe me as “wild with the Word of God?” How have I encountered the Word and engaged the world in the weeks of Advent? To what “more” am I called this week? May we, like Samson and John, be people of strength, courage, passion and mercy in our efforts to labor with Christ for God’s Reign of Love.
—Susan Kusz, SND serves as Associate Director at the Jesuit Retreat House in Oshkosh, WI.
O Root of Jesse’s stem,
sign of God’s love for all his people:
come to save us without delay!
Please share the Good Word with your friends!