Readings for December 19
Commentary and Meditation
Today we see the salvation story unfold within the parameters of the relationships of two childless couples. In the First Reading, “an angel of God, terrible indeed,” appears to an unnamed woman. She is barren, yet the angel says she will conceive and give birth to a son, who “will begin the deliverance of Israel from the power of the Philistines.”The woman relates this remarkable experience to her husband, Manoah, and eventually the events come to pass.
In the Gospel it is the husband to whom an angel appears with words that are just as amazing. Although he is a “righteous” man from the “priestly division of Abijah,” Zechariah finds the message hard to believe. He is “an old man,” and his wife “is advanced in years.” The angel quiets Zechariah’s fears by literally silencing him.
Astonishment and uncertainty often mark the ways in which Christ comes into our lives. In times of confusion and in periods of doubt, silence can be a welcome companion. It allows us to consider not only the mystery of God made man but also the mystery of man becoming God.
The child Elizabeth will conceive will be “great in the sight of the Lord,” because he will go before the Lord “in the spirit and power of Elijah.” Not only will Zechariah’s son bring joy to his parents, but he will “turn the hearts of fathers toward their children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous.” He will “prepare a people fit for the Lord.” Zechariah knows that his son will be stirred by the spirit of the Lord.
Every human heart contains a prayer not yet answered and a desire yet to be fulfilled. Like both couples in today’s Scriptures, the ways in which God responds to us can be truly unsettling and his purposes difficult to comprehend. Each couple longed for a child, but the lives they conceived were more than just answers to personal prayers. Samson and John both entered the world in order to show the splendor and the glory of God the Father.They were set apart,“taking no wine or drinking strong drink,” because they were inebriated by the mighty works and singular justice of God.
In Jesus our disgrace has been removed. God has seen fit to do this in a way far greater than any we could have fashioned for ourselves. Our mouths should sing of God’s glory, for he has rescued us from the hand of the wicked and been our strength even from our mother’s womb.
Yes, all is well when one seeks only the will of Jesus.
Excerpted from The Little Way of Advent: Meditations in the Spirit of Thérèse of Lisieux, by Fr. Gary Caster.
Fr. Gary Caster is a priest of the Diocese of Peoria, Illinois, ordained in 1992, who has worked as a high school chaplain and religion teacher and director of Campus Ministries at Bradley University, Eureka College, Illinois State University, and Illinois Wesleyan University. He worked with the Office of Family Life to develop a program of marriage preparation, and taught Church history and ecclesiology to men in formation for the permanent diaconate. Fr. Caster has written and produced shows for EWTN. He also wrote Mary, In Her Own Words: The Mother of God in Scripture and The Little Way of Lent: Meditations in the Spirit of St. Thérèse of Lisieux.