Monday - 4th Week of Advent
1) Opening prayer
Lord, loving and mighty God,
you fulfilled your promise to save us
when Jesus, your Son, became one of us.
We are no longer in the dark,
for you let your light shine on us.
Bring us your salvation now,
set us really free from our sins,
let us become fully human with Jesus
and go with him in your way of peace and love.
Let him be our strength,
our constant companion on the road,
that through him and growing in his humanity,
we may be your beloved sons and daughters.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
2) Gospel Reading – Luke 1, 67-79
Zechariah, father of John, was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has visited his people, he has set them free,
and he has established for us a saving power in the House of his servant David,
just as he proclaimed, by the mouth of his holy prophets from ancient times,
that he would save us from our enemies and from the hands of all those who hate us,
and show faithful love to our ancestors, and so keep in mind his holy covenant.
This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham,
that he would grant us, free from fear, to be delivered from the hands of our enemies,
to serve him in holiness and uprightness in his presence, all our days.
And you, little child, you shall be called Prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare a way for him,
to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the faithful love of our God in which the rising Sun has come from on high to visit us,
to give light to those who live in darkness and the shadow dark as death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.
• The Canticle of Zechariah is one of the many canticles of the community of the first Christians which we find dispersed in the writings of the New Testament: in the Gospels (Lk 1, 46-55; Lk 2, 14; 2, 29-32), in the Letters of Saint Paul (1 Co 13,1-13; Eph 1, 3-14; 2, 14-18; Phil 2, 6-11; Col 1, 15-20) and in the Book of Revelation (1, 7; 4, 8; 11, 17-18; 12,10-12; 15, 3-4; 18, 1 up to 19, 8). These Canticles give us an idea of how faith and the weekly liturgy were lived during those first times. They make us guess that the liturgy was, at the same, a celebration of the mystery, profession of faith, animation of hope and catechesis.
• Here in the Canticle of Zechariah, the members of those first Christian communities, almost all of them Jewish, sang the joy of having been visited by the goodness of God which, in Jesus, the promises are fulfilled. The Canticle has a beautiful structure, well elaborated. It seems like a slow climbing which leads the faithful toward the height of the mountain, from where they observe the road that they have travelled since the time of Abraham (Lk 1, 68-73), they experience the beginning of the fulfilment of the promises (Lk 1, 74-75) and from there they look ahead, they foresee the road that the child John will have to travel up to the time of the birth of Jesus: the sun of Justice who comes to prepare, for all, the way of Peace (Lk 76-79).
• Zechariah begins praising God because he has visited and redeemed his people (Lk 1, 68) he has established for us a saving power in the House of his servant David (Lk 1, 69), just as he promised by the mouth of his holy prophets from ancient times (Lk 1, 70). And he describes in what this powerful salvation consists: that he would save us from our enemies and from the hands of those who hate us (Lk 1, 71). This salvation is the result, not of our own effort, but rather of the merciful goodness of God who remembered his holy Covenant and the oath he swore to Abraham, our father (Lk 1, 72). God is faithful. This is the foundation of our security.
• Continuing Zechariah describes in what the oath of God sworn to Abraham consists: it is the hope that “freed from the hands of the enemies we can serve him, without fear, in holiness and uprightness, in his presence, all our days”. This is the great desire of all the people of all times: to live in peace, without fear, serving God and neighbour, in holiness and uprightness, all our days of our life. This is the height of the mountain, the point of arrival, which rose up in the horizon with the birth of John (Lk 1, 73-75).
• Now the attention of the Canticle is addressed toward John, the new born child. He will be a prophet of the Most High, because he will go before the Lord to prepare him the way, to give to his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins (Lk 1, 76-77). Here we have a clear reference to the messianic prophecy which said: “There will be no further need for everyone to teach neighbour or brother, saying, ‘Learn to know Yahweh. No, they will all know me, from the least to the greatest, Yahweh declares, since I will forgive their guilt and never more call their sin to mind” (Jer 31, 34). In the Bible “to know” is synonymous of “to experience”. Forgiveness and reconciliation make us experience the presence of God.
• All this will be the fruit of the merciful action of the heart of God and will be realized fully with the coming of Jesus: The rising Sun has come from on high to give light to those who live in darkness and the dark shadow of death and to guide our feet into the way of Peace (Lk 1, 78-79).
4) Personal questions
• Sometimes it is good to read the Canticle as if it were the first time, in such a way as to be able to discover in it all the novelty of the Good News of God.
• Have you experienced, sometimes, the goodness of God? Have you experienced sometimes, the pardon of God?
5) Concluding Prayer
I shall sing the faithful love of Yahweh for ever,
from age to age my lips shall declare your constancy,
for you have said: love is built to last for ever,
you have fixed your constancy firm in the heavens. (Ps 89,1-2)