Wednesday - 3rd Week of Advent
1) Opening prayer
Lord, mighty God,
no angel announced our birth,
but we know that you loved us
even before we were born,
and that you call us to prepare
the fuller coming of your Son among people.
Reveal your strength in our weakness,
keep us hoping in your future,
that we may overcome all obstacles
to establish the kingdom
of Jesus Christ our Lord.
2) Gospel Reading – Luke 1, 5-25
In the days of King Herod of Judaea there lived a priest called Zechariah who belonged to the Abijah section of the priesthood, and he had a wife, Elizabeth by name, who was a descendant of Aaron. Both were upright in the sight of God and impeccably carried out all the commandments and observances of the Lord. But they were childless: Elizabeth was barren and they were both advanced in years.
Now it happened that it was the turn of his section to serve, and he was exercising his priestly office before God when it fell to him by lot, as the priestly custom was, to enter the Lord's sanctuary and burn incense there. And at the hour of incense all the people were outside, praying. Then there appeared to him the angel of the Lord, standing on the right of the altar of incense. The sight disturbed Zechariah and he was overcome with fear. But the angel said to him, 'Zechariah, do not be afraid, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth is to bear you a son and you shall name him John. He will be your joy and delight and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord; he must drink no wine, no strong drink; even from his mother's womb he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, and he will bring back many of the Israelites to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah, he will go before him to reconcile fathers to their children and the disobedient to the good sense of the upright, preparing for the Lord a people fit for him.' Zechariah said to the angel, 'How can I know this? I am an old man and my wife is getting on in years.' The angel replied, 'I am Gabriel, who stand in God's presence, and I have been sent to speak to you and bring you this good news. Look! Since you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time, you will be silenced and have no power of speech until this has happened.'
Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah and were surprised that he stayed in the sanctuary so long. When he came out he could not speak to them, and they realised that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. But he could only make signs to them and remained dumb. When his time of service came to an end he returned home.
Some time later his wife Elizabeth conceived and for five months she kept to herself, saying, 'The Lord has done this for me, now that it has pleased him to take away the humiliation I suffered in public.'
• Today’s Gospel speaks to us about the visit of the Angel Gabriel to Zechariah (Lk 1, 5-25). The Gospel of tomorrow will speak about the visit of the Angel Gabriel to Mary (Lk 1, 26-38). Luke places both of these visits side by side to each other, in such a way that we may read both texts attentively, that we may perceive the small and significant difference between one visit and the other, between the Old and the New Testament. Look for and discover the differences between the visits of the Angel Gabriel to Zechariah and to Mary through the following questions: Where does the Angel appear? To whom does he appear? Which is his message, what does he announce? Which is the response? Which is the reaction of the person after receiving the visit ? Etc.
• The first message of the Angel of God to Zechariah is: “Do not be afraid!” Up until now, God still causes fear to many persons and up until now the message continues to be valid, “Do not be afraid!” Immediately the Angel adds: “Your prayer has been heard!” In our life, everything is the fruit of prayer!
• Zechariah represents the Old Testament. He believes, but his faith is weak. After the visit, he remains mute, incapable to communicate with the persons. The manner in which the project of salvation, known by Zechariah, how it had been revealed up to that moment, had exhausted all his resources, while God was initiating a new phase together with Mary.
• In the announcement of the Angel is expressed all the importance of the mission of the child who will be born and who will be called John: “he must drink no wine, no strong drink, even from his mother’s womb he will be filled with the Holy Spirit”, that is, John will be a person totally consecrated to God and to his mission. “He will bring back many of the Israelites to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him to reconcile fathers to their children and the disobedient to the good sense of the upright, preparing for the Lord a people fit for him”, that is, in the child John will take place the expected return of the Prophet Elijah who will have to come to carry out the reconstruction of community life: to reconcile the heart of the parents to their children and the disobedient toward the wisdom of the just.
• In reality, the mission of John was very important. According to the people, he was a prophet (Mk 11, 32). Many years later, in Ephesus, Paul continued to find persons who had been baptized with the Baptism of John (Acts 19, 3).
• When Elizabeth, being old, conceived and remained pregnant, she hid herself during five months. While Mary, instead of hiding, gets out of her house and goes to serve her.
4) Personal questions
• What struck you the most in this visit of Angel Gabriel to Zechariah?
• To reconcile the heart of the parents toward their sons, that is, to reconstruct the fabric of human relationship from the basis and to build up the life in community. This was the mission of John. This was also the mission of Jesus and continues to be today the most important mission. How do I contribute to this mission?
5) Concluding Prayer
For you are my hope, Lord,
my trust, Yahweh, since boyhood.
On you I have relied since my birth,
since my mother's womb you have been my portion. (Ps 71,5-6)